Shortness of Breath: “How’s the weather today?” This is an oft-repeated question that has major implications for people with lung disease. Whether it’s summer or winter, rainy or windy, people with lung disease should pay attention to weather reports because sudden changes in weather, as well as extreme weather conditions, can provoke lung symptoms.
Hot and Humid Weather
Hot weather can be especially difficult for people with respiratory illnesses. In a 2013 study from Johns Hopkins University, researchers found an association between rising temperatures and the number of emergency hospital admissions for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and respiratory tract infections in people 65 and older.
Although the reason behind this correlation is unclear, breathing hot air is known to promote airway inflammation and exacerbate respiratory disorders such as COPD. Hot weather can also be a trigger for those who suffer from asthma.
Because people with asthma already have inflamed airways, weather is more likely to have an effect, as breathing warm, moist air causes a narrowing of the airways in asthmatics. Air pollution may also be a factor affecting summer breathing in people with lung disease, as an increase in ozone from smog is often seen in the summer months.
Cold and Dry Weather
Cold weather, and especially cold air, can also be harmful to your lungs and health. Cold air is often dry air, and for many people, especially those with chronic lung disease, that can cause trouble. Dry air can irritate the airways of people suffering from lung diseases. This can cause wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.
Be Active and Ready
While you can’t control the weather, you can reduce the impact it has on your lung disease symptoms. Stay ahead of the curve by monitoring the weather forecast and identifying your triggers before you head out. You can comfortably enjoy your favorite outdoor activities all year round by keeping the following tips in mind:
- If it’s cold outside, wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth to warm the air before it enters your lungs. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Access to air conditioning can be important during the hot summer months, so add air conditioning to your home if you can.
- Monitor air quality forecasts to stay healthy. Air pollution can be very high in both winter and summer and people with asthma and other lung diseases are at a higher risk of being affected by air pollution.
- Remember to take your prescribed controller medications—another important way to reduce the potential impact of changing weather conditions on your health.
- If you have asthma or COPD, always keep quick-relief medicines with you. Stop the activity and use your quick-relief medicine as soon as you start having symptoms.
To learn more about how to manage COPD or asthma symptoms, Find a Better Breathers Club near you or learn more about how to manage COPD and asthma at the JCS Institute.