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Asthma & the Heat - Tips on How to Manage Your Asthma & Prevent an Attack This Summer


It takes time for people who suffer from asthma, especially children, a while to learn how to deal with the condition. Certain types of weather can trigger an asthma attack, but the more you know about the condition, the better you can manage it for yourself or your children.   

What is Asthma?

Asthma is any respiratory condition which causes your airways to swell in response to a trigger (irritant) and creates a series of events which cause your lungs to make a sticky or thick mucus. The muscles in and around your airways may also tighten, further narrowing your airways. Mucus, swelling and tightening of your airways leads to a sensation of difficulty getting air in or air out of your lungs. Triggers are unique to each individual but usually involve:

  • Allergies
  • Respiratory infections
  • Fumes
  • Chemicals
  • Molds
  • Dust
  • Strong odors
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Stress
  • Exercise
  • Medications
  • Sulfites
  • Extreme temperatures

What are the symptoms of Asthma?

Asthma will make you feel like you’re struggling to breath. Feelings of shortness of breath, whistling in your chest with breathing called wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, feeling like you are breathing through a straw, chest pain, and chest pressure, can all be symptoms of asthma and should be discussed with your doctor. The symptoms can be mild or severe and they can come and go. The symptoms can also be seasonal.

How can heat affect Asthma?

When the seasons change to spring and summer time, the sudden change in outdoor temperatures can act as an irritant to many people with preexisting asthma. Similarly, going from a hot or humid environment into a cold, air conditioned space can trigger some symptoms. Warmer temperatures also bring on increased plant growth and pollen concentrations in the air. Environmental allergies to pollens, weeds, and mold spores combined with warm temperatures, humidity, and air pollution can create poor air quality for someone with asthma. Heavy summer thunderstorms also can increase pollen counts making asthma symptoms worse during the rain.

 How do you  avoid an Asthma attack?

Taking the steps below can help you lessen the severity of an asthma attack or potentially avoid having one altogether.  

  1. Always be prepared if you know you have asthma. You should carry your reliever medication, also known as rescue medications, at all times, since you never know when your symptoms may occur.
  2. Check your local pollen counts and air quality indexes online before you plan your day, and stick to indoor activities if both counts are high.
  3. Do not overheat-that goes for you and your medications. Hydrate often, go for a swim, drink cold water or eat cold foods, stick to the shade or plan your outdoor activities early or late in the day to avoid the hottest times of the day. Do not exercise in the heat or leave your inhalers in the glove compartment of a hot car.
  4. If you experience worsening asthma symptoms in the warm summer/spring months, talk to your doctor to make sure you are using the correct medications. Work with your doctor to develop an asthma action plan and consider seeing an asthma specialist.

The best thing you can do for asthma is to know that you have it and learn what your triggers are. If you haven’t been diagnosed with asthma, but are experiencing symptoms, be sure to make an appointment to see a pulmonologist who can diagnose the condition and prescribe the proper medications for treatment.


Zarina Nestor, MD, earned her Medical Degree from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY and completed her Residency in Internal Medicine at Hofstra North Shore LIJ School of Medicine in Manhasset, NY. She is Fellowship-trained in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, NY. She is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Pulmonary Disease, and Critical Care Medicine. Her clinical interests include critical care, COPD, asthma, bronchitis, cough, sleep apnea, mechanical ventilation, pulmonary nodules, and lung cancer. Dr. Nestor sees patients in Crystal Run’s Monroe and West Nyack locations.