Beating the Heat with Asthma

(August 17, 2012)

Cities all over the country are experiencing record high temperatures and heat waves that seem endless. High humidity mixed with triple digit temperatures and air pollution can make breathing difficult for everyone, especially those with asthma. The American Lung Association can help you learn about asthma, and has some easy-to-follow tips on how to protect your lungs during the dog days of summer.

¨  Get a heads up before you head out. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. Air quality is listed in six groups; from healthy to hazardous. Download the State of the Air® app and to check out your local air quality and receive automatic air quality alerts. Available for Android and iPhone markets. To learn more about the air you breathe, visit www.stateoftheair.org.

¨  Pack a bag and be prepared. Dealing with rising temperatures is a little easier if you take a few minutes to prepare. Pack your bag with everything you need to manage asthma symptoms if you have them:

o   Your quick-relief inhaler should be with you at all times; you never know when you might need it.

o   Your spacer or valved holding chamber. Use it with our quick-relief inhaler as directed by your health care provider.  

o   A copy of your asthma action plan. Follow the instructions as soon as you begin to feel asthma symptoms.

o   Your peak flow meter, if prescribed by your health care provider. You may have a drop in your peak flow reading before you even begin to feel symptoms. If you do, follow the instructions on your asthma action plan.

o   Plenty of water to drink so you can stay hydrated.

¨  Get ready to go.  Using your quick-relief inhaler 15 – 30 minutes before going outside in the heat or exercising will help avoid asthma symptoms. Asthma medicines only work if you use them the right way. Click on www.lung.org/asthmameds to watch short how-to videos and print easy-to-follow instructions.

¨  Take it easy. On really hot days even regular activity can feel strenuous and cause asthma symptoms. If possible, schedule outdoor activities in the early morning or late evening. Stay inside where it’s cool as much as possible. When at home or in the car keep windows closed and the air conditioning on. Air conditioned places like museums, libraries and movie theaters are cool hangouts for family and friends during the heat of the day.  

¨  Splash around. Splashing around the water park and swimming will not only keep you cool but can be great exercise. Chlorine and other chemicals found in indoor and outdoor pools and water slides can be an asthma trigger. Before jumping in the deep end make sure the pool area is well ventilated and doesn’t have a strong chlorine or chemical odor. If you can smell the chemicals you should probably leave.

¨  Go fragrance-free. Sunscreens, tanning lotion, bug spray and citronella candles all have fragrances that can worsen asthma symptoms. Choose products that are unscented and lotions instead of aerosol sprays. Avoid mosquito breeding grounds by emptying containers with standing water, and change the water in birdbaths every few days.

To learn more about asthma, lung disease and healthy air visit www.lung.org, or call the American Lung Association’s LungHelpline to speak with a lung health specialist.