Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Fun in the Sun:
Don't Let Your Asthma Sizzle This Summer

by Eileen Censullo, MBA, RRT


More than 22 million Americans suffer from asthma. This number includes over 6.5 million children under the age of 18. Right now, just about all of them are having to deal with the hot summer weather.

Humidity alone cannot trigger an asthma attack, according to the Asthma Educator’s Handbook. However, the latest asthma guidelines issued by the National Institutes of Health list “change in weather” as a possible precipitating factor for asthma. Until recently, studies had yet to really examine these weather-related triggers in a rigorous fashion. Now a report published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology reveals that changes in humidity and temperature actually can result in an increase in emergency department (ED) visits for pediatric asthma “exacerbations”—the medical term for an asthma attack.

“A strong relationship exists between temperature and humidity fluctuations with pediatric asthma exacerbations, but not barometric pressure,” said study author Dr. Nana A. Mireku, an allergist at Dallas Allergy Immunology, a private practice in Dallas, TX. According to the report, patients experiencing an asthma attack often complain that weather fluctuations are a major trigger.

Guidelines to remember

If you have asthma, heat and humidity can make the act of getting enough air into your lungs a sizeable undertaking. Here are some guidelines to remember during the hot summer months:

  • Continue to follow your own asthma action plan.
  • Take all prescribed medications and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Try to avoid strenuous activities outside between noon and 3 p.m.
  • When the temperatures and humidity soar, remain indoors with the air conditioner and humidifier turned on.

At first warning sign of an asthma attack, take immediate steps to prevent a trip to the ED by following your asthma action plan and:

  • Getting inside, preferably in an air-conditioned area
  • Drinking plenty of fluids (not carbonated)
  • Using a peak flow meter pre- and post-bronchodilator usage
  • Taking a bronchodilator
  • Resting to let the body cool down

It’s also a good idea to avoid spending time outdoors on days when the weather report indicates the air quality index is in the danger zone. Communication with family members and doctors on how you are feeling during these days may also be important. Continue to follow your physician’s plan, and be smart about your activities during the heat and humidity of summer. •

Eileen Censullo is a Registered Respiratory Therapist and American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) member from Phoenixville, PA. She currently works for DSG, Inc., serves as vice president for the Pennsylvania Society for Respiratory Care, and is a long-time volunteer with the asthma camp sponsored annually by Crozer Keystone Health System in Springfield, PA.
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