Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Hot, humid weather impacts those with asthma

After the brutal winter we had this past year in New England, we all promised not to complain about the heat this summer — yet most have us have long abandoned that resolve. 
Poor air quality on these hot and humid summer days can make us all miserable, but for those with asthma, it can be perilous.
Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the lung’s airways characterized by a cough, shortness of breath and wheezing, affecting 300 million people worldwide, including 22 million in the U.S.

Here are some ways everyone can cope with the extreme heat and humidity: 

•  Stay hydrated with water — avoid caffeinated tea and coffee, as well as alcohol.
•  Stay indoors with the doors and windows closed, and air conditioning on.  If you don’t have A/C, go to public buildings like shopping malls, libraries, community or senior centers, or a friend’s house.
•  Restrict strenuous exercise outdoors to early morning or evening hours.

Hot, humid and high pollen days present a particular challenge for people with asthma. Besides the above, asthmatics need to keep rescue inhalers and medications on hand when attacks occur. 

Most physicians give their patients a personalized asthma action plan, specifying how to manage their asthma when it worsens. That written plan should include information on when to seek emergency care.

I asked Backus Pulmonologist Setu Vora, MD, to share some advice for asthmatics.

“A sudden change in temperature can affect the inflammation in patients with asthma.  Hot, humid and hazy conditions make people's asthma worse. Stay indoors in air conditioning if you have severe asthma. Using your controller maintenance inhalers regularly keeps your asthma well controlled."

We have a few more weeks of typical New England summer weather. Before we know it, we will be complaining about the snowstorms and freezing temperatures of winter. 

Alice Facente is a community health nurse for the Backus Health System. This advice should not replace the advice of your personal healthcare provider. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.or

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