Summer is known as a time to kick off your shoes, relax, and soak up the sun. Putter around in your garden…go on vacation…enjoy a trip to a theme park with your family…
Whether you have asthma, allergies, or a more chronic lung condition like pulmonary fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the summer heat can aggravate your symptoms. This is especially the case when it rises above 90 degrees. High humidity can also increase the risk of a flare up. Hot weather is hard on the lungs because when it’s hot, the body has to work extra hard to cool down—and that takes more oxygen.
When you’re already having a hard time getting enough oxygen, you don’t want to get overheated. In the heat, it’s easier to become dehydrated, and that makes you feel worse. Plus, bright sunshine can cause the level of ozone in the air to rise. High ozone levels can cause breathing problems and trigger symptoms if you have a lung condition like asthma or COPD. The key? Be prepared. Use these simple tips to avoid flare-ups this summer:
- Stay safe and cool indoors—Did you know you can monitor the humidity in your house? You can purchase an inexpensive tool called a hygrometer at a hardware store or online to monitor humidity levels, which should be around 40 percent. Buying a humidifier for your home and bedroom can also drastically improve the quality of the air that you breathe. Other tips: close the blinds or curtains, use the air conditioner if you have one, and if you don’t, think about going to a movie or a library to stay cool. Run errands early in the morning or later in the evening when it’s cooler outside. (The hottest time of the day is usually between 11:00am-3:00pm.) A floor standing fan or desktop fan can also help, and you may sleep better if you have a fan in your bedroom at night.
- If you have to go outside—It’s best to try to avoid being in the sun for long periods. Make sure to wear loose, cool clothing (preferably of cotton or wicking material and in lighter colors) to help keep your body cooler. Take along a bag of essentials. Include any medication that you might need, plenty of water and a handheld fan. Hold it about six inches away and let the cool air blow towards the middle of your face. Remember to keep your fan clean, so that you don’t blow dust into your face.
- A word about water—Drink lots of it, preferably cold water, even if you don’t feel thirsty. It’s important to stay hydrated, which helps regulate your body temperature. More important, it helps the body produce thinner mucus, which is easier to expel from your lungs and airways. If you’re feeling overheated, take a cool bath or shower or just splash yourself with cool water.
- Check the forecast—This is an easy way to plan ahead. Don’t just check for the temperature and humidity, though–look for information on pollution levels (smog and other air pollutants make it much harder for people with COPD and asthma to breathe) and pollen counts.
There are so many things to enjoy about summer; don’t let your lung condition take any of them away. Plan ahead and manage your symptoms to have a healthy and enjoyable summer.