Severe Weather Can Aggravate Your Asthma

  • For the past few years or so, it seems like weather and our climate have been brutal, doesn't it? This summer looks to be no different. Seems like the whole country is either baking, drowning or blowing away!


    Back east, where my siblings and other family live, they are suffering with record temps in the 100s, not to mention high humidity. In the south and midwest, it's record flooding that must be dealt with. And in the Dust Bowl, it seems as though tornadoes have become an unwelcome part of life.


    So what does all this mean for people with asthma? Misery... to be perfectly frank.


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    Severe or extreme weather like that described above is known to be an asthma trigger of the irritant variety. That means that weather doesn't trigger an inflammatory response in your airways in the manner that pollen or dust may. But, it does irritate already inflamed airways, thus making asthma symptoms worse.


    Types of extreme weather that can set off your symptoms include:

    • High heat
    • High humidity
    • Extreme cold
    • Sudden changes in air pressure, humidity, or air temperature
    • Thunderstorms
    • Strong winds

    Why do these events trigger asthma symptoms and asthma attacks? High air temperatures, especially when the air is polluted, can lead to an increase in ground level ozone, which has an extremely negative effect on air quality and is irritating to airways of people with asthma. Many types of pollen also thrive in periods of high heat.


    When it's humid and warm, it's the perfect environment for mold spores to thrive. When it's windy, both mold and pollen can be more widely distributed. Cold air, though not a big problem this time of year in most areas, can also be irritating to airways.


    In addition, experts are beginning to believe that climate change in general is having a negative influence on asthma severity and prevalence. In fact, global warming is being blamed for the explosion of asthma in recent decades, because of these effects:

    • Longer growing seasons that start earlier
    • Increased levels of pollen in the air
    • Faster plant growth
    • Increased levels of pollution

    So, should those of us with asthma run for cover or move to a different part of the world when severe weather kicks in where we live? The answer, thankfully, is no. There are some things you can do to help keep your asthma under control, however.


    1. Stay indoors as much as you can when weather is hot, dry, and windy. That's when pollen counts tend to be highest. If you must be outdoors, try to avoid early mornings, when pollen counts are at peak levels.


    2. Keep your windows closed and the air conditioning on. Be sure to clean out or replace HEPA filters periodically.


    3. Don't hang clothes outside to dry, as they can collect pollen and mold spores.


    4. Always keep your rescue inhaler (or bronchodilator) with you, whether at home or when you go out.


    5. Take your asthma and allergy medicines every day, as prescribed. Don't wait until your symptoms kick in, because then it will be too late for the medicines to take effect.


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    You CAN keep living without limits, even in the face of heat, humidity, floods, and killer storms. But it might mean changing some of your habits, at least for the time being.

Published On: June 13, 2008