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allergy season

Anyone who has exercised on a summer day knows it can be harder to breathe when it’s hot and humid outside.  But these conditions seem to be especially hard on people with asthma.  Why is that, exactly?

The answer is more complicated than you might think.  Several studies have confirmed that both warm air and moist air can lead to breathing restriction in people who have asthma, although experts are still not sure why.

The first theory is simply that hot, humid air is heavier and more difficult to breathe.  These conditions create a chain reaction of events that raise your body temperature, cause you to sweat more, become dehydrated and elevate the rate of your breathing.  When a person with asthma is having difficulty breathing for whatever reason, this can aggravate asthma symptoms even without actually causing them.

But there is also evidence to suggest that hot air can, in fact, irritate the airway and lead to the type of inflammation that triggers asthma symptoms.  Researchers found that people with asthma experienced airway restriction when breathing very hot air for an extended period of time while people without asthma did not.  This indicates that heat itself may be a cause of airway inflammation and asthma.

If humid air is heavier and harder to breathe, the moisture in the air actually helps with the absorption of oxygen.  Many people with asthma conversely experience asthma symptoms when the air is too dry (i.e. during the winter) because insufficient moisture can also lead to airway inflammation.  It seems that air that is both too high and too low in humidity can trigger asthma.

Keep in mind that heat and humidity are not the only cause of asthma attacks during the summer months.  Warm, moist air also creates an ideal environment for dust mites to grow and multiply.  Mold also tends to proliferate and spread during the summer for the same reason.  Even if you are not actually allergic to these irritants, they can still aggravate your asthma symptoms and trigger an attack.

Regardless of why hot, humid weather creates trouble for people with asthma, experts advise that they avoid strenuous activity during these times.  Stay indoors as much as possible on warm days and maintain a humidity level in your home below 50%.  It is also important for people with asthma to stay hydrated and to use their medications as directed by a doctor.

Kevin Arnold

Kevin Arnold writes about asthma and allergies, travel and healthy living.  For more tips and information, check out all of his posts at www.pureroom.com/healthy_living_blog.