Summer heat is here. For some people, that may mean a rise in asthma flare-ups. Dry, hot air may trigger asthma. However, other heat-related factors may also worsen your asthma.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says climate change is increasing “ground-level," or bad, ozone. Ozone is a gas and contributes to what we typically see as "smog" or haze. It is common in the summer when there is more sunlight and low winds.
These ozone levels increase as the temperature soars.
Often, emergency rooms see a surge of visits from people seeking asthma-related care. This is because ozone is very irritating to the lungs and airways. It can reduce your lung function. Ozone can make it more difficult for you to breathe deeply.
The lungs of people with asthma are more sensitive to the effects of ozone, according to the EPA.
Other groups most at risk from high ozone levels include:
- Children. Asthma is the most common chronic disease for children. In addition, kids may spend more time during the summer outdoors in camps, sports or a park.
- Active adults who work outdoors or exercise outdoors.
- Some healthy people are unusually sensitive to ozone. Scientists don’t have an explanation for this, according to the EPA.
How can you protect yourself in the summer if you have asthma?
- Check air quality alerts before planning outdoor activities.
- If the alerts show ozone is high, limit your time outside. Or plan outdoor activities for early morning or evening, when ozone is lowest.
- Use air conditioning, if you have it.
If you don't have air conditioning:
- See if your town or city opens up "cooling centers" on very hot days. These may be schools, community centers, libraries or other places.
- Visit a museum, mall or library.
- Some libraries have free passes to museums, or show free movies in the summer.
Talk to your doctor
Make sure you keep your asthma action plan up-to-date. Ask if you need to adjust your plan.
And always remember: when you go out, keep your quick-relief inhaler with you at all times. Do not leave it behind in the car or let it sit in the hot sun.