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How to Prevent a Summertime Asthma Attack
Whether it’s playing with children, going on vacation, or enjoying the warm weather, people tend to spend more time outdoors during the summer. But for asthma sufferers, this can mean an increased possibility of an attack. More time outdoors leads to more contact with pollen from trees, grass, and weeds, the levels of which peak during summertime. This may worsen symptoms. Higher ozone levels can also lead to flares, and the higher humidity associated with summer spurs the growth of dust mites and mold, two of the most common asthma triggers.
Warm Weather and Asthma
"For some asthmatics, simply breathing in cold air can cause wheezing or coughing, so the warmer weather can improve asthma symptoms because higher temperatures allow them to exercise and enjoy the outdoors," says board-certified Pulmonary Medicine specialist Dr. Kristine Kuhl.
During the summer, there are fewer numbers of respiratory viral infections that prompt asthma than in the fall and winter, leading to less viral-induced flares.
Tips for Preventing a Summer Asthma Attack
Dr. Kuhl offers the following tips to help prevent attacks:
- Always keep your rescue inhaler on hand for easy use when symptoms appear.
- Maintain a cool house to decrease the number of dust mites and lower humidity and mold.
- Change air filters regularly and consider using a HEPA filter or air purifier.
- Monitor the levels of asthma triggers, such as pollen, grass, and the ozone. On days they are high, minimize the amount of time spent outdoors.
- It’s best to not have rugs or carpets, but if you do, vacuum them regularly.
- Finally, wash all sheets and pillowcases weekly in hot water to kill dust mites.
Don’t Stop Your Medication
Because asthma treatment is based on a “step-up-or-step-down” approach, some patients may be able to decrease their medications over the summer. However, close monitoring of symptoms, medication compliance, and frequent follow up is required. Patients should never decrease or stop taking their medicines without consulting their physician first.
When asthma sufferers decrease or stop their medications, it can lead to an increase in symptoms. This is most pronounced in what’s known as the “September Epidemic,” where there’s a marked increase in asthma-related emergency room and doctor visits seen in children.
Studies suggest that patients overestimate their asthma control, so a close working relationship with your physician is extremely important. Daily medication to prevent asthma attacks, regardless of how you feel, is paramount.