Climate and Adult Onset Asthma: How They’re Related

While environmental allergens and pollutants such as pollen and animal dander can trigger common respiratory problems like an asthma attack, a change in weather— from extreme cold to extreme heat — can do the same.

Common Weather Triggers

Common weather triggers that can aggravate asthma symptoms include:

  • Cold air. Chilly temperatures can prompt a cold weather asthma attack, especially cold, dry air. When you breathe in dry air, the fluid in your airways evaporates faster than it can be replaced. This friction creates irritation and swelling in your airways, which worsens cold weather asthma symptoms. Cold air also causes your airways to produce histamine, a chemical produced in your body as a defense mechanism to allergy attack.
  • Wind and rain. Rainfall can increase and stir up mold spores, with wind blowing around pollen and mold.
  • Thunderstorms. Thunderstorms can trigger increased humidity. The windy conditions during a thunderstorm can also cause high levels of pollen and mold spores to be swept up high into the air where the moisture breaks them into smaller pieces. As the pollen and mold particles settle back down, these smaller pieces can be breathed into the smaller airways of the lungs where the airways are irritated and asthma symptoms can be triggered.
  • Heat. In the summer months, smog, exhaust fumes, and pollutants tend to be higher and can trigger asthma symptoms.
  • Air pressure fluctuations. Fluctuations in barometric pressure triggers sinus episodes, causing sinusitis — a common trigger for asthma symptoms.

How to Manage Common Respiratory Problems & Triggers

The weather and the environmental changes around us play an important role in asthma attacks. Managing the symptoms of weather-related asthma can reduce the severity and prevent symptoms of an asthma attack. Whether the trigger is heat, pollen, or a thunderstorm, the best way to avoid climate-related asthma is to first identify what your triggers are. For example, if lightning storms tend to set off your asthma attacks, then stay inside. If cold air is your trigger, use albuterol before going out in the cold and wear a face mask or scarf over your face. If your asthma tends to worsen in the hot summer weather, use an air conditioner and try to stay in a controlled environment.

To stay on top of weather changes, monitor the weather forecasts. Watch the forecast for rain, humidity, air pressure changes, and ozone reports. Another way to control weather-related asthma is by taking your prescribed asthma medications. Regular use of a controller medication is an important part of managing asthma.

While it is not possible to control the weather, you can take steps to limit asthma attacks. Identify your weather triggers and then do what you can to protect yourself from common respiratory problems with these steps:

  • Take your medication exactly as prescribed and as discussed with your physician.
  • Check with your physician that you’re using your inhaler(s) correctly.
  • Use a written asthma action plan and keep it readily available.
  • Go for a regular asthma appointment to monitor and address any changes.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast.
  • Carry your reliever inhaler with you and keep taking your regular inhaler as prescribed by your physician.
  • Keep warm and dry, wear gloves, a scarf, a hat, and carry an umbrella.
  • Try breathing in through your nose instead of your mouth, as your nose is designed to warm the air as you breathe in.
  • Don’t leave your inhalers in direct sunlight or anywhere they might get too hot.
  • Avoid exercising outdoors during the peak hours of 11am-3pm.
  • Plan any outdoor activities when the air quality tends to be better.

Schedule a Consultation

With good management, asthma symptoms can be controlled. Most people who develop adult onset asthma can lead normal lives. If you suspect weather-induced asthma, it may be time to discuss a prevention and treatment plan with your doctor. To get you started, discuss and review your treatment options in order find the perfect option for you. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Shukla today, for treatment options.

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