Staying Safe in the Summer Heat with Respiratory Problems

Summer can be a wonderful time of year, with family barbeques and outdoor fun, but it can also be dangerous if you have a chronic lung disease, like COPD or asthma. Just like the extreme cold can trigger an exacerbation of your lung disease, so can extreme heat and humidity during the warm months of the year.

If you know what triggers a flare-up for you, you know what to watch out for, and what to do if you start to have trouble breathing. You don't need to let them ruin your summer, though! With a few precautions, you can stay safe and still have fun doing all the things you like to do during the lovely summer months.

Just as a reminder for the hottest days coming up, here is a list of things that are known to be dangerous for people with chronic lung diseases, and what you can do to stay safe.

Heat Exhaustion

There is a danger for anyone in the summer, but even more so for people with lung diseases. You can experience weakness, headaches and pass out if you become very thirsty, or even become nauseous or dizzy.

Shortness of Breath

Even without the symptoms of heat exhaustion, someone with COPD can have trouble breathing because of poor air quality due to high heat. Some of described it as feeling a little suffocated. Anyone who has even been outside during the hottest or most humid days has experienced feeling as though the air is almost too thick to breathe.

Low Barometric Pressure

When a summer storm system moves in, it drops the air pressure, which can have the same effect on those with lung diseases that it does if you were to climb quickly to a high altitude. The air becomes thinner, and there is less oxygen to breathe, which can spell trouble for those with COPD or asthma.

Poor Indoor Air Quality

Outdoor pollution can be very bad during the summer, but a dirty or poorly maintained air conditioner can be even more dangerous, releasing mold spores and spreading dust particles into the air.

Ways to Prevent Flare-Ups

Pay attention to how you're feeling, and take action right away. If you start to feel light headed, tired or out of breath, go indoors where it's cool, or find some shade.

Sip water throughout the day – don't wait until you start to feel thirsty to start drinking. If you have a respiratory problem, you will need more water than others to stay properly hydrated. Being dehydrated can contribute to extra mucus production in the lungs.

The indoors can be your cool sanctuary on the hottest and most humid days. Have your air conditioning unit serviced twice a year – once at the beginning of spring, and again toward the end of summer to get rid of any bacteria, mold or dust.

Keep up on your medications, and make sure you are taking them properly. If you have a rescue inhaler, make sure it's on you at all times.

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