Seasonal Asthma Triggers to Consider This Summer

Seasonal Asthma Triggers to Consider This Summer

Asthma and COPD patients, caregivers, and physicians know that seasonal conditions tend to have adverse effects on their symptoms. Winter months are often thought to be the most common for aggravating these conditions, as cold air causes a natural constriction of the airway. But, just as in winter, the summer has also been shown to affect patient's symptoms. While every patient is different, there are several common triggers for these flare-ups:

1. Exercise - People tend to be more active in the summer months and often spend more time exercising outside. Exercise is one of the most common triggers of asthma symptoms. Good asthma control is key to ensuring you can be active and enjoy the outdoors throughout the summer [1].

2. Humidity & Temperature - Summer is also a time for high humidity and temperatures. For some patients, humidity combined with summer's warm air leads to constricted airways. Studies have shown that these two factors compound to exacerbate Asthma or COPD symptoms - especially when patients are physically active [2], [6], [7].

3. Pollen and other aeroallergens - Summer is a time when airborne allergens (pollen) are at their most. Throughout the summer, elevated winds and repeated rainfall spread pollen,  triggering irritating sinus allergies. These conditions have a similar effect on Asthma and COPD patients. Pollen exposure has been shown to cause an increase in Asthma symptom flare-ups and local hospital admissions [3]. Summer is also a time in which smog and environmental pollutants thrive, potentially leading to further complications [4], [6].  

4. Storms - The environmental conditions found before and after thunderstorms can lead to a perfect storm for asthma & COPD patients. In fact, it's been widely reported that the symptoms of some asthma patients are prone to flare up in the high-humidity air conditions following summer thunderstorms, known as Thunderstorm-triggered asthma (TA). Thunderstorms concentrate a number of allergens - including pollen - and other airborne pollutants at the near-ground level [4], [6]. TA has unfortunately even had lethal outcomes for some, with the most notable occurring in 2016 in Melbourne, Australia where more than 3400 patients sought immediate medical attention for severe Asthma attacks. Tragically, 10 deaths were reported as a result [4].

Implications:

Asthma flare-ups are a natural occurrence associated with changing environmental conditions. The correlation between this spike in symptom attacks and hospital admissions is no coincidence - summer caused flare-ups are serious and require medical attention. Nevertheless, proper asthma management can have a huge impact on minimizing the severity of the symptoms.

This year, as the world has faced the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of minimizing preventable hospital admissions is crucial. By keeping the management of Asthma and COPD symptoms in front of mind this summer, patients may be able to reduce the amount of physical contact needed with healthcare providers, while still managing to feel their best.

While each patient is different, there are some common tips which may help manage your asthma or COPD symptoms this summer:

Review humidity data in the forecast - consider staying in on hot, humid days.

Stick to your adherence plan - Controller and preventer inhalers manage patient symptoms most effectively when doses are taken regularly.

Improve your technique - Adherence is not the sole factor in effective medication delivery. Inhaler technique plays a huge role in delivering medication to the airway. Be sure to keep your technique up to date. For more information on inhaler technique, check out this blog!

Be careful at the pool - take your inhaler. Chlorine and other pool chemicals are known triggers for asthma symptoms, be sure to have your inhaler handy if you're planning on visiting a pool [5].

Hopefully, these tips will help you manage your asthma this summer, but remember that you know your Asthma best. If you’re not feeling well, or have any questions about your health, contact your doctor by phone or online to get professional advice.

Sources

[1]  Strauss RH, McFadden ER Jr, Ingram RH Jr, Deal EC Jr, Jaeger JJ. (1978). Influence of heat and humidity on the airway obstruction induced by exercise in asthma. J Clin Invest. 61(2):433-440. DOI:10.1172/JCI108954

[2] Vann, M. R. (2012). Heat, Humidity, and Asthma Symptoms. Retrieved from:  https://www.everydayhealth.com/asthma/heat-humidity-and-asthma-symptoms.aspx#:~:text=People%20with%20mild%20asthma%20may,Respiratory%20and%20Critical%20Care%20Medicine.

[3]  Osborne NJ, Alcock I, Wheeler BW, et al. (2017). Pollen exposure and hospitalization due to asthma exacerbations: daily time series in a European city. Int J Biometeorol. 61(10):1837-1848. DOI:10.1007/s00484-017-1369-2

[4]  Harun NS, Lachapelle P, Douglass J. (2019). Thunderstorm-triggered asthma: what we know so far. J Asthma Allergy. 12:101-108. Published 2019 May 6. DOI:10.2147/JAA.S175155

[5] Andersson M, Backman H, Nordberg G, et al. Early life swimming pool exposure and asthma onset in children - a case-control study. Environ Health. 2018;17(1):34. Published 2018 Apr 11. DOI:10.1186/s12940-018-0383-0

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