Asthma in the Summer
Most people think only cold weather triggers asthma symptoms, but summertime heat and humidity can also bring on asthma attacks for some people. Learn more about why summer conditions can worsen your asthma, and follow tips to manage your symptoms as temperatures soar.
Why Does Summertime Trigger Asthma Attacks?
Several factors combine to make summer a prime time for asthma flare-ups. Here’s what could be making you cough and feel short of breath:
Hot air: Sitting in a comfortable room between 70 and 78 degrees is unlikely to trigger asthma without an allergen present. However, breathing hot air can make your symptoms flare up because heat affects the physiology of your airways.
Humidity: Humid air alone can trigger asthma. Add heat to the mix, and you have a fertile breeding ground for dust mites and mold. These allergens can thrive indoors during the summer, meaning you may not be safe from asthma attacks, even if you stay inside.
Pollen: In late spring and early summer, grass pollen takes to the air. Then, while July sees little pollen activity, ragweed season begins in August. These allergens can trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive individuals.
Ground-level ozone: Ozone contributes to “smog,” the hazy sky you sometimes see hanging over metropolitan areas. This known lung irritant is more common in the summer when high temperatures and sunlight spur the chemical reaction needed to create it. Ozone can reduce lung function and make it more difficult to breathe deeply, especially if you have asthma.
Wildfire smoke: Hot, dry conditions can lead to forest fires. Smoke plumes from these blazes can travel hundreds of miles, lowering the air quality wherever they go. Your asthma symptoms could worsen if you’re forced to breathe smoky air.
Thunderstorms: Sudden weather changes, such as those seen before and during a thunderstorm, can cause chest tightness and coughing in sensitive people. Windy conditions can also blow pollen high into the air, irritating your lungs when they settle back down.
Swimming pool chlorine: Swimming is a recommended activity for people with asthma, and it reduces the risk of becoming overheated in the summer. However, some people are allergic to the chlorine added to swimming pools.
Tips to Manage Asthma in the Summer
If you discover that heat, humidity, summer air pollution, and other factors set off your asthma, try these strategies to help prevent flare-ups:
Stay indoors during heat waves: Avoid situations where you must inhale hot air. This means staying in a cool, air-conditioned building when it’s hotter than 85 degrees outside whenever possible.
Lower the indoor humidity: You can’t control the weather, but you can keep your home environment comfortable. Running the air conditioner naturally dehumidifies the air, but this isn’t always enough. If the humidity climbs above 50%, dust mites and mold could become a problem. Setting up a portable dehumidifier is an easy way to prevent excessive moisture.
Keep an eye on pollen counts: When levels become elevated, stay indoors and keep the windows closed.
Monitor the air quality index (AQI): Check your favorite weather app. You should find the current AQI, possibly even an air quality forecast for the day. If the index rises above 100, stay indoors if you can. If you must run errands, drive with the windows up and the AC set on recirculation mode.
Watch the weather forecast: If you know thunderstorms affect you, stay indoors before, during, and immediately after the storm.
Plan outdoor activities for earlier or later in the day: Most of the time, heat, humidity, poor air quality, and thunderstorms are more likely in the afternoon. That’s why mornings and evenings are typically the best times to be outside if you have asthma.
Pay attention to symptoms at the pool: Now that you know chlorine is a possible asthma trigger, be more conscious of symptoms that appear while swimming. If you have to reach for your inhaler after a few laps, consider trying a different physical activity, preferably indoors to avoid your summertime asthma triggers.
Use your inhalers: Take your regular preventer inhaler as usual to reduce the risk of attacks. Then, keep your reliever inhaler with you so you can act quickly if flare-ups occur. Remember, it’s important to store inhalers in a cool place out of direct sunlight, so try keeping yours in an insulated lunchbox when you’re out and about on a hot day.
Talk with your doctor: If you spend time outside in hot, humid weather, you’ll soon know if summertime conditions pose a problem for you. Don’t feel as though you need to endure worsening symptoms. If you start taking your reliever inhaler three or more times per week, talk to your doctor about possibly changing your medication dosage, at least until the weather cools down.
Control your allergy triggers: Do you think pollen or mold could be to blame for your heightened symptoms? Get tested for allergies so you can find any undiagnosed conditions, begin taking the proper medications, and start limiting your exposure to the allergens that bother you.
If you suspect you may have undiagnosed asthma or allergies, it is advisable to get tested as soon as possible. Allergy & Asthma SpecialistsSM offers asthma screening and treatment to help you manage your condition successfully. Allergy testing for inhalant allergens and foods is also an option you may wish to pursue. To request an appointment at one of eight convenient office locations in the Philadelphia area, please call 610-825-5800 today.