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a melting inhaler on a patio

Here Comes the Heat and Asthma Attacks!

Ah summer, here you are again! Time to kick off the season with a barbecue!

We have a new patio and pergola (since we had to have a project to work on during the pandemic). With so much time at home, we spent last summer rebuilding our deck. But it was so hot outside that we couldn't spend much time on the patio. So much for summer barbecues!

We planted a tree to help shade the patio, but it's going to be years before it gets tall enough to do much. So this year, we built a pergola so we could have a little more shade. We also made curtains to surround the pergola to keep the sun and heat out. And as a final layer, we added swagged curtains underneath the pergola to keep the sun from peeking through the wooden slats.

But, boy, is it hot outside! My lungs are already getting cranky.

Heat triggering asthma attacks

Did you know that heat can trigger an asthma attack? Yep – strange but true! You may be thinking, "Well – good thing heat doesn't bother my asthma!" The frustrating thing about asthma is that new asthma triggers can develop at any time – even if you have had asthma for years and years.1

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When I teach families about asthma triggers, I let them know about all of the possible asthma triggers. Some triggers may not be a problem now, but they can be down the road. Or they may not – you never know with asthma!

For some people, summer might be hard because of the heat. For others, humidity can trigger an asthma attack – or it can be a combination of heat and humidity. That double whammy can make the air feel heavy and dense and make it hard to breathe.

Another problem with humidity is that pollen, mold, and dust mites thrive in humid air and they can also trigger asthma attacks.

How can I beat the heat?

We know that asthma is different for everyone, so it's important to figure out what works for you. But a few ideas may help:2

  • Don't take a summer vacation from your asthma meds. If your doctor has prescribed a daily, controller inhaler – make sure you keep taking it! And remember to always have your reliever inhaler handy (just in case)!
  • Check the air quality index. If we are headed outside, we plan our day around the air pollution. Summer can bring ground-level ozone, which is known as a "sunburn on the lungs." Ozone is a chemical reaction that takes place when the heat acts on pollutants. Since it's a chemical reaction involving heat, ozone tends to get worse as the day gets warmer, then will decrease as it gets cooler. So we plan any weekend outings for first thing in the morning or later in the evening.
  • Check the pollen level. High heat and high pollen levels can make for cranky lungs.
  • Stay hydrated. It's easy to get dehydrated in summer, so as the old saying goes, "Drink before you are thirsty." (If you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.) Be careful if cold temperatures are an asthma trigger. Cold drinks, smoothies, or milkshakes can also trigger an asthma attack. It's a cruel irony that some of us can't have a smoothie on a hot summer day. Stupid asthma!

Does anyone else have problems with the heat in summer? Have you found strategies that keep your lungs happy in the heat of summer? Let's hear them in the comments below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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