Asthma has many known triggers, and for some people, they’re worse during the summer months. Although factors such as poor air quality don’t directly cause asthma, they can exacerbate symptoms. Fortunately, it’s still possible to enjoy the warm weather if you take precautions. Here are some things to consider as you manage asthma during the summer months.
WHAT MAKES ASTHMA WORSE DURING THE SUMMER?
According to our TX asthma specialists, some people find that their asthma symptoms improve in the summer. Respiratory viruses are usually less common, for example, and people spend more time outdoors — thereby reducing exposure to indoor allergens.
Conversely, heat and humidity do affect asthma symptoms for some people. Hot temperatures and humid air can narrow the airways, making breathing more difficult. Hot air also traps more particulate matter, increasing air pollution and further exacerbating symptoms. It’s therefore especially important to be mindful of the Air Quality Index (AQI), a report provided by the EPA which measures air pollution levels. Some weather apps provide this data, but you can also find reports through AirNow.gov. May through September is smog season, so watch for any days when the AQI is above 101 (considered dangerous for people with asthma) during these months.
In South Texas, we are all aware of Mountain Cedar season and the tree pollens that hit each Spring. However, certain allergens, specifically from grass pollen, mold spores, and ragweed in the late summer months, do spike during this time of the year. So, for individuals with sensitivities to these allergens who also have asthma, the summer months can be challenging. Part of your asthma diagnosis will include identifying your asthma triggers and developing a plan to manage them through avoidance and/or medications.
In addition to these allergy considerations, increased outdoor activity for sports and recreation can also lead to worsening asthma symptoms. Otherwise, enjoyable summer activities like gathering around a campfire, swimming in a chlorinated pool, or watching fireworks, may lead to an unexpected flare-up for some individuals.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF DURING THE SUMMER
One of the simplest but most effective ways to avoid asthma flare-ups during the summer is to continue taking medicines as prescribed, even when on vacation. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) notes that taking a “drug holiday,” or stopping medications temporarily, increases the risk for serious asthma symptoms and hospitalizations in the fall, especially for children and young adults. If you’ve been prescribed long-acting medications, continue taking them unless otherwise directed by your physician. As the AAAAI asserts, “Even though you feel fine, your lungs depend on the medication to control inflammation.”
Aside from continuing your medication, here are some additional ways you can modify your routine to continue enjoying summer activities:
- Stay inside on ‘bad air’ days. Whether the air quality is poor or the pollen count is high, try to limit your time outside. You’ll also want to be mindful of other factors that could trigger an asthma attack, such as thunderstorms, wildfires, and excessively high/humid temperatures.
- Shower when you come in. Washing off quickly will help to remove any pollen or dust particles that could stick to your skin and hair and otherwise irritate your airways.
- Optimize your indoor air quality. Mold and dust mites — two common allergy triggers — thrive in high temperatures and humidity above 50%. Keep your air cool and within a healthy humidity range (between 30-50%) by running your air conditioner and a dehumidifier, if needed.
- Practice sport safety. People with asthma can still exercise, but some modifications may be needed. For example, asthmatic children playing sports may need to pre-medicate prior to exercise or modify their daily preventative treatment to accommodate hot weather. Be sure to let our team know of any changes to your child’s schedule, and inform any coaches, camp counselors, babysitters, or other caregivers of their asthma plan.
While summer may introduce new asthma challenges, we’re here to help you navigate them. Turn to AllergySA for all of your asthma and allergy care needs. Schedule a visit by calling us at (210) 616-0882 or visit our website.