The changing of the seasons, from winter to spring and spring to summer, can be incredibly tough for those affected by asthma. Deb Lulling, RN, BSN, asthma educator/community nurse, and Jan Moore, RRT-NPS, community respiratory educator, Parkview Community Nursing Department, say, when it comes to maintaining control over this condition in the warmer months, the difference can be in the planning.
Q. Do asthma symptoms worsen in certain conditions (e.g. extreme heat, humidity)? If so, why?
Heat and humidity can trigger asthma symptoms. But, they are not the only cause of asthma episodes during the summer. Warm, moist air also creates an ideal environment for dust mites to grow and multiply. Mold also tends to increase and spread during the summer for this reason also. Even if you are not actually allergic to these irritants, they can still aggravate your asthma symptoms and trigger an attack.
Q. What are some tips for adults managing asthma during warmer months?
People should avoid strenuous activity during these times. Stay indoors with air conditioning as much as possible on warm days. Keep windows closed during seasons when pollen and molds are highest. Do not dry clothing outside if you are allergic to pollen or mold. Maintain a humidity level in your home below 50 percent to minimize dust mites. Use a dehumidifier in home if needed (basements). Avoid cutting grass if allergic to grass pollen or mold. If you must cut grass use a HEPA filter face mask respirator. It is also important for people with asthma to stay hydrated and to use their medications as directed by a doctor.
Q. What are some tips for parents managing a child’s asthma condition during warmer months?
Consider staying indoors during the middle of the day and afternoon when the pollen count is highest. If outside when the pollen count is highest, it might help if you wash hair before going to bed. As for exercise/sports/, medicate before starting exercise/sports/playing outside if needed. Warm up before exercising and cool down afterwards. Limit outdoor exercise on high pollen, mold or ozone action days or increased pollution/particulate count days.
Q. A lot of people vacation in warmer months. Any tips for managing asthma when you travel?
It is important to keep your control (daily) and quick-relief (rescue) medications nearby. If you go on a trip, you must be prepared and have a plan. It may be helpful to create a checklist so you do not forget anything you may need if an asthma flare up occurs on a trip.
1. Medicines. Take enough for the trip plus a little extra, labels from pharmacy bottles-if an emergency refill is needed, take medicines and inhalers, breathing machine medicines, and spacers/mask.
2. Equipment. Nebulizers (breathing machine and supplies), own pillow/blankets or anti-dust mite items (encasements), medical alert bracelets/necklaces if needed, daypack to carry supplies. If traveling by plane or bus, make sure you do not check these items. They need to be readily accessible if needed.
3. Records and Asthma Action Plan. List of all medications, asthma diary, insurance cards, your family physician and asthma and allergy physician numbers and have a plan on who to contact at destination if an emergency arises.
4. Not everywhere has tobacco-free policies, so remember to reserve non-smoking rooms at hotels
It may not be a good idea to travel when you are having asthma problems. Consider staying home or consulting with your physician before traveling if you are feeling very tired, having trouble breathing or other symptoms of a flare-up such as coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness, a fever over 100 degrees F or low peak flow readings.