Extreme weather conditions, including the current heatwave throughout the United States, can make breathing more difficult, especially for those living with lung disease. As the continued effects of climate change are apparent throughout the country, the American Lung Association offers these simple steps to protect lung health during extreme heat:
Monitor air quality. Air pollution can be very high during summer and other extreme heat periods. Those with asthma and other lung diseases are at higher risk of being negatively impacted by air pollution during these times.
Do not exercise outdoors during extreme heat. It’s not just uncomfortable, it can be deadly.
Take steps to keep your body cool.
Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
If you do not have working A/C in your home, locate air-conditioned spaces such as shopping malls and stay there during the late afternoon when temperatures are highest. Many areas offer cooling centers at libraries, community centers, or other public buildings. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you return home.
Electric fans may lend a false sense of comfort when temperatures reach 95 degrees or higher due to creating air flow, but not reducing body temperature. This could increase your risk of heat-related illness. Instead, take a cool shower or bath to cool your body temperature.
Keep your medications with you. It is important for those with chronic lung diseases such as COPD and asthma to always keep quick-relief medications with them and to follow their asthma or COPD action plan. If you know extreme weather is coming, make sure you have enough medication on hand to last a few days and contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms do not improve or become worrisome.
Ask for help. The American Lung Association Lung HelpLine at 1-800-LUNGUSA is staffed by nurses and respiratory therapists and is a free resource to answer any questions about lung health – including how to protect yourself during extreme heat.
Help others. Check on elderly and vulnerable neighbors frequently to ensure their homes are safely cooled and vented.