Asthma: Asthma and the Weather

Reviewed on 11/6/2020

What’s the Link?

During an asthma attack, the airways in and out of your lungs narrow and your body makes extra mucus, both of which make it hard for you to breathe.

During an asthma attack, the airways in and out of your lungs narrow and your body makes extra mucus, both of which make it hard for you to breathe. Everyone has different triggers, but certain types of weather and seasonal changes can lead to attacks for some people.

Heat

When you breathe in hot air, it can irritate airways that are already narrowed.

When you breathe in hot air, it can irritate airways that are already narrowed. Heat and sunlight also can make pollution worse when they mix with chemicals in the air, creating smog. Watch air-quality and weather forecasts. Limit your time outside if they look bad. Air conditioning keeps you cool and filters out irritants.

Cold

When the temperature drops, your asthma symptoms may get worse.

When the temperature drops, your asthma symptoms may get worse. Cooler air can dry out the tissues in your airways, making them more sensitive and likely to close up. A scarf wrapped loosely over your lower face will help warm the air before you inhale it. So will breathing through your nose rather than your mouth.

Humidity

All types of trees and plants give off this fine yellow powder.

You may feel as though it’s harder to breathe in damp air. A moist atmosphere is also a friendly environment for mold ¬≠and dust mites, both of which irritate the lungs. An air conditioner or dehumidifier can help keep your home dry. If you need to be outdoors, try to get out later in the afternoon, when it’s usually less humid.

High Pollen Counts

All types of trees and plants give off this fine yellow powder.

All types of trees and plants give off this fine yellow powder. It's also a major cause of allergies and an asthma trigger for many people. An allergist can help you figure out the specific kinds that bother you. Medicine, allergy shots, or both can help manage your allergies.

Thunderstorms

Severe storms can pose a special threat to people with asthma.

Severe storms can pose a special threat to people with asthma. Rain and lightning hit pollen and break it into smaller-than-normal pieces. Spread by the wind, these particles get into your lungs and set off your symptoms. It’s common enough that there’s a term for it -- "thunderstorm asthma." If pollen is one of your triggers, try to stay indoors during strong rainstorms and keep windows closed.

Abrupt Changes

When the weather takes a sudden turn, your asthma symptoms may flare up.

When the weather takes a sudden turn, your asthma symptoms may flare up. Some experts believe that barometric pressure plays a role. But other research suggests that shifts in humidity and temperature are the culprits. Keep an eye on forecasts so you know when big swings are coming.

Rain

Showers can have mixed effects on asthma.

Showers can have mixed effects on asthma. A light one can wash pollen away, which might ease your symptoms. But a downpour will break it up and spread it. Dust mites and mold -- two other possible triggers -- thrive in wet weather. You can’t control the outdoors, but you can manage indoor air by changing air conditioner filters often and making sure steamy rooms like the kitchen and bathroom have good ventilation to fight mildew growth.

Winter

It's not just the cold air outside that can trigger your asthma.

It's not just the cold air outside that can trigger your asthma. These months are prime times for colds and the flu, which can spur attacks. A flu vaccine can lower your odds of getting sick. If you light up a fireplace during the chilly time of year, the wood smoke can be an irritant, too. Electric or gas heat for your home is best.

Summer

More time outside means more exposure to things that stress your airways.

More time outside means more exposure to things that stress your airways. Seasonal triggers can include smoke from cookouts and strong chlorine smells from swimming pools. Although the weather’s good enough to dry laundry outside on a line, using a dryer will keep irritants from getting on fabrics. Shower after you’ve been outside to remove pollen from your clothes and hair.

Asthma: Asthma and the Weather

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