Breathing in Summer: Most people with chronic lung diseases are aware that an extreme increase in temperature, that is, below freezing or above 90 degrees, can trigger exacerbations. Three factors can affect your ability to breathe in the heat – heat, sunlight, and humidity.
When it is heating up, your body overworks as it tries to stay cool. You sweat more, which can result in dehydration and shortness of breath.
Sunlight causes certain chemical reactions with the pollutants in the air that cause an increase in ozone. This can result in difficulty breathing, a burning sensation in your nose and throat, coughing, and wheezing.
Does warm air hold more moisture or cold air?
High humidity levels can make it even more difficult to catch your breath. Warm air contains more moisture than cold air, reducing the amount of oxygen present. As humidity increases, it’s more difficult to breathe denser air if you have chronic lung problems.
It can be frustrating, but there’s a lot you can do to help ease your symptoms during the summer:
- Avoid heat. Try to stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible.
- Stay away from sunlight, especially from 11 am to 3 pm. When it’s hottest.
- Reduce strenuous activity. That doesn’t mean you can skip your pulmonary rehab, though. Rehab will help even on hot days.
- Drink cold water and avoid alcohol as it can lead to dehydration.
- Eat normally, but break up meals into smaller portions, reduce your salt intake, and eat cold foods like fruits and vegetables.
- Use a handheld fan or a large fan. Do not apply large fans directly to your face as they can be very dusty.
- Summer is an opportunity to relax, so take it easy—and stay cool when it’s hot and humid!