As the temperature rises and the days become longer, many of us look forward to spending more time outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. While warm weather has many positive effects, it's important to be aware of how it can affect our health, especially for individuals with existing lung conditions.
Allergens and Pollen Levels
Spring and summer are notorious for high pollen counts, which can trigger allergies and worsen asthma symptoms. Warm weather is the time when grasses and weeds increase pollen levels. This can make your airways more sensitive and result in more coughing, wheezing and increased shortness of breath.
Dehydration and Respiratory Function
Warmer temperatures often lead to increased sweating, which can result in dehydration if proper hydration is not maintained. Dehydration can affect lung function by causing the airways to narrow, making it more difficult to breathe. This is especially problematic for individuals with conditions like asthma, where maintaining optimal hydration is crucial for managing symptoms.
Some individuals may experience heat-induced asthma, a condition where physical activity in hot weather triggers asthma symptoms. This can be due to a combination of factors, including increased breathing rate, dry air, and the presence of allergens in the environment. It's essential for individuals with heat-induced asthma to be aware of their triggers and take appropriate precautions, such as using a bronchodilator before exercise and staying well-hydrated.
Increased Air Pollution
During warmer months, air pollution levels tend to rise and for individuals with lung conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), higher levels of air pollutants can lead to increased respiratory symptoms and exacerbations.
Respiratory Infections and Warm Weather
Contrary to popular belief, respiratory infections can still occur in warm weather. While viruses like the flu tend to be more active in colder months, other respiratory pathogens, such as certain types of bacteria, can thrive in warmer, humid conditions. It's crucial to continue practicing good hygiene, such as frequent handwashing and avoiding close contact with sick individuals, regardless of the season.
While warm weather brings many benefits, it's important to be mindful of its potential impact on lung health, especially for individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions. By staying aware of air quality, staying properly hydrated, and taking precautions against allergens and heat-induced triggers, individuals can continue to enjoy the outdoors while safeguarding their respiratory well-being.
Here are some tips for looking after your lung health this summer:
Review and Update Medications
Ensure that you have an ample supply of your prescribed medications, including inhalers, nebulizers, and any other respiratory medications. Double-check expiration dates and confirm that you have enough to last through the season. If you anticipate increased outdoor activities, discuss with your doctor if any adjustments or additional medications are necessary.
Monitor Air Quality
Stay informed about air quality in your area by using reliable resources like air quality index (AQI) reports. On days with high pollution levels, consider limiting outdoor activities or using a mask designed to filter out pollutants.
Plan Outdoor Activities Wisely
Enjoying the outdoors is a wonderful way to embrace warm weather, but it's essential to be mindful of your limitations. Consider planning outdoor activities during times when air is cooler and quality is better, like early morning or late evening. Pace yourself and take breaks as needed. If pollen or air pollution levels are high, opt for indoor activities instead.
Drink plenty of water
Ensure you air drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day. Aim for at least 8 glasses of water and adjust based on your individual needs. Try to avoid drinks with caffeine or high sugar content like coffee and soft drinks which can make you more dehydrated.
Practice Breathing Techniques
Incorporate deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques into your daily routine. These practices can help improve lung function, reduce stress, and enhance overall well-being. Engaging in activities like yoga or tai chi can also be beneficial for both your physical and mental health.
North Brisbane Sleep and Thoracic specialise is helping patients manage complex lung conditions.
Patients can ask their GP for a referral to our practice, or one of the experienced specialists.