During an asthma attack, the airways in and out of your lungs narrow and your body makes extra mucus, both of which make it hard for you to breathe. Everyone has different triggers, but certain types of weather and seasonal changes can lead to attacks for some people.
When you breathe in hot air, it can irritate airways that are already narrowed. Heat and sunlight also can make pollution worse when they mix with chemicals in the air, creating smog. Watch air-quality and weather forecasts. Limit your time outside if they look bad. Air conditioning keeps you cool and filters out irritants.
When the temperature drops, your asthma symptoms may get worse. Cooler air can dry out the tissues in your airways, making them more sensitive and likely to close up. A scarf wrapped loosely over your lower face will help warm the air before you inhale it. So will breathing through your nose rather than your mouth.
You may feel as though it's harder to breathe in damp air. A moist atmosphere is also a friendly environment for mold and dust mites, both of which irritate the lungs. An air conditioner or dehumidifier can help keep your home dry. If you need to be outdoors, try to get out later in the afternoon, when it's usually less humid.
All types of trees and plants give off this fine yellow powder. It's also a major cause of allergies and an asthma trigger for many people. An allergist can help you figure out the specific kinds that bother you. Medicine, allergy shots, or both can help manage your allergies.
Severe storms can pose a special threat to people with asthma. Rain and lightning hit pollen and break it into smaller-than-normal pieces. Spread by the wind, these particles get into your lungs and set off your symptoms. It's common enough that there's a term for it -- "thunderstorm asthma." If pollen is one of your triggers, try to stay indoors during strong rainstorms and keep windows closed.
When the weather takes a sudden turn, your asthma symptoms may flare up. Some experts believe that barometric pressure plays a role. But other research suggests that shifts in humidity and temperature are the culprits. Keep an eye on forecasts so you know when big swings are coming.
Showers can have mixed effects on asthma. A light one can wash pollen away, which might ease your symptoms. But a downpour will break it up and spread it. Dust mites and mold -- two other possible triggers -- thrive in wet weather. You can't control the outdoors, but you can manage indoor air by changing air conditioner filters often and making sure steamy rooms like the kitchen and bathroom have good ventilation to fight mildew growth.
It's not just the cold air outside that can trigger your asthma. These months are prime times for colds and the flu, which can spur attacks. A flu vaccine can lower your odds of getting sick. If you light up a fireplace during the chilly time of year, the wood smoke can be an irritant, too. Electric or gas heat for your home is best.
More time outside means more exposure to things that stress your airways. Seasonal triggers can include smoke from cookouts and strong chlorine smells from swimming pools. Although the weather's good enough to dry laundry outside on a line, using a dryer will keep irritants from getting on fabrics. Shower after you've been outside to remove pollen from your clothes and hair.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
- Thinkstock/Science Source
- Mayo Clinic: “Asthma.”
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Asthma Triggers,” “3 Ways Humidity Affects Asthma,” “Thunderstorms and Asthma,” “Control Indoor Allergens to Improve Air Quality,” “How Does Rain Affect Pollen Counts?”
- American Lung Association: “Weather and Your Lungs.”
- KidsHealth: “Can Weather Affect a Person’s Asthma?”
- Scientific Reports: “Cold weather increases respiratory symptoms and functional disability especially among patients with asthma and allergic rhinitis.”
- Asthma UK: “Weather.”
- American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: “Pollen Allergy.”
- Pediatrics International: ”Are high barometric pressure, low humidity and diurnal change of temperature related to the onset of asthmatic symptoms?”
- Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: “Changes in weather and the effects on pediatric asthma exacerbations.”
- Children’s National Health System: “Pediatric Asthma.”
- UConn Health: “Summertime Asthma Triggers.”