It is summer and the heat is unbearable, your body needs time to adjust to temperature changes. While the season may conjure up boundless energy in some people, for people suffering from respiratory illnesses such as Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), the hot weather may trigger breathing problems. At risk for problems with heat and humidity? With a respiratory condition like asthma, your health level can be influenced by high temperatures and humid climates. Make sure to have a game plan so that you can manage your activity appropriately. Numerous studies have shown there is a connection between hot weather and respiratory problems.
How hot weather can affect breathing?
When it’s this hot, it can be tough to breathe. There are a lot of factors that can contribute to stagnant air and the increase in pollution levels. With heatwaves coming this summer, you should be concerned about your breathing too. The body needs more oxygen in times of intense heat or cold, meaning there will be changes to how the lungs function. This might mean that you’ll experience either deep breathing or rapid breathing. The effects of hot weather on breathing are more than just aggravating; they can also threaten lung health.
● During the summer, the pollen count in the air increases. This may lead to respiratory symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath in people with asthma, allergies or COPD.
● A study published in the Journal of Respiratory Physiology demonstrated that hot and dry air results in increased irritation of the nose and throat. This is believed to be due to the activation of thermal sensors present on the nerves of the larynx (voice box) and upper airways.
● Another study published in the European Respiratory Journal showed that breathing in hot air causes inflammation and tightness in the airways. This leads to difficulty breathing.
● The Lancet article on how high temperature increases smog in the air. It causes ventilation problems, worsening respiratory symptoms.
● When it’s hot outside, people sweat more and can get dehydrated. This dries out the nasal passage, bronchial tubes, and lung tissue causing shortness of breath.
● Hot air has less oxygen and a higher humidity content than cool air, which can be difficult to breath. This excess moist air usually has negative consequences for those with chronic respiratory problems.
How to take care of our lungs during summer?
One way you can help your lungs during the summer is by making some minor adjustments to your daily routine. A few examples are:
1. Stay indoors:
Do not step out of the house unless necessary. Keep the windows and doors closed to keep the house cool.
2. Stay updated about the weather conditions:
Before going out make sure that the weather is agreeable, the air pollution can’t damage your health, and there is no excessive pollen in the air. If there are high pollen and particulate matter levels in the air, we suggest staying indoors because these substances can, when combined with heat, trigger coughing and wheezing. Patients with respiratory conditions will be more susceptible to this than others. If you do have to go out, be sure to pack a face mask to help protect against pollutants and pollens.
3. Plan your day accordingly:
Avoid going out between 11 am and 3 pm. It’s the warmest time of day, and you won’t be comfortable. Plan your work or activities in the early morning or evening when the air gets pretty cool.
4. Quit unhealthy lifestyle choices:
If you want to improve your breathing, it is important that you quit smoking. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases excretion of fluids from the body.
5. Choose the right clothing:
Wear underwear and build up your tolerance for exposure to the sun during summers. Wear loose, light-coloured cotton clothes.
6. Do not over-strain yourself:
Don’t do strenuous exercises like running, cycling or walking uphill with a heavy backpack.
7. Make necessary dietary changes:
You should drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Some foods with high water content include watermelon, musk melon, mango and cucumbers.
8. Keep your body cool:
If you’re feeling warm, take a shower to cool down. Cover yourself up with a jacket, hat or scarf, or use an umbrella when going out.
9. Be prepared for a health emergency:
Always have your emergency quick-relief medications with you. Remember to switch out the expiry date
Heat waves aren’t much fun for anyone, but those with lung conditions are at a greater risk of adverse effects, including death. Therefore, it is crucial for such people to make sure that they stay properly hydrated by drinking lots of water and are careful about not getting exposed to high temperatures. If you are diagnosed with a respiratory illness, you should always consult your doctor at the first sign of an exacerbation.