May is here, and that means the summer warmup is about to begin. For many people, summer sunshine is a welcome change from the grayer, darker days of winter. But if you're one of the more than 25 million Americans who have asthma, you might not be quite so excited.
That’s because for many people living with asthma, summer weather ushers in more serious symptoms and more frequent flare-ups. At Harbor Community Health Centers, we help patients of all ages learn to manage their asthma symptoms, so they can breathe easier no matter what the season brings. If you have asthma, here are three key ways the summer weather could make your symptoms worse.
Signs and symptoms of asthma
Asthma is a chronic disease that interferes with breathing in a few key ways:
- Inflammation narrows the airways — sometimes dramatically
- Irritation causes coughing and wheezing
- Excess mucus makes it harder to breathe
Because it affects respiration, people with asthma typically require treatment that involves both lifestyle changes and medication.
If you have asthma, you’re likely to have symptoms like:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in your chest or airways
- Worsening of coughing and wheezing with colds and flu
Asthma affects both kids and adults, and even if you didn’t have asthma as a child, you could still develop it as an adult.
Asthma and summer: 3 effects
Summer weather offers some unique challenges to many people with asthma.
#1: High temperatures
When it’s hot out, even a little activity can make you breathe more heavily, plus there’s the risk of dehydration. Both of these issues can trigger asthma symptoms, like coughing and wheezing. More people out and about in the summer also means more cars — and more air pollution. Smog levels often increase in the summer as hot weather moves in, trapping air pollutants closer to ground level.
#2: High humidity
Humid air is filled with moisture, and that can make it harder to breathe all on its own. But humidity also promotes mold growth, along with ideal conditions for dust-mite populations to thrive. If mold, mildew, or dust mites trigger your symptoms, it’s imperative to look for ways to limit your exposure — both inside and outdoors.
#3: More pollen
Even though the weather is warm year-round in Southern California, plenty of plants rely on the increased heat and sun of summer to pollinate and reproduce. That means there’s a lot more pollen in the air — and that’s a significant asthma trigger for plenty of people. Plus, pollen can cause other allergic reactions, which can add to your breathing issues.
Asthma triggers can change as you get older. That means that even if summer weather changes don’t trigger your symptoms now, they may in the future. Understanding these potential triggers means you can be ready to respond to your symptoms if they do flare up later on.
Learn to manage your asthma symptoms
If you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, it’s extremely important to have regular doctor visits to ensure your treatment stays optimized for your symptoms and health. If you haven’t been diagnosed with asthma but you’re experiencing symptoms, early diagnosis is the key to effective management — and a better, healthier lifestyle.
At Harbor Community Health Centers, our team works with asthma patients to develop custom treatment plans to improve their symptoms and health. To learn how we can help you, call the office, stop in at one of our three locations in San Pedro, California, or book an appointment online today.