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Beat the Heat!

Asthma image
Before jumping in the deep end, make sure the pool area is well ventilated and doesn’t have a strong chlorine or chemical odor.

High humidity mixed with high temperatures and air pollution can make breathing difficult for everyone, espe­cially for people with asthma. Here are some easy-to-follow tips on how to protect your lungs during the dog days of summer.

Get a heads up before you head out.
The Air Quality Index is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your air is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. Air quality rankings are divided into six levels – from healthy to hazardous. To check out your local air quality and receive automatic air quality alerts, you can download the American Lung Asso­ciation’s State of the Air app, available at lung.org and in Android and iPhone markets, or visit AirNow.gov.

Pack a bag and be prepared.
Deal­ing with rising temperatures is a little easier if you take a few minutes to prepare. Pack a bag with everything you need to manage asthma symptoms in case they crop up while you’re out. Your quick-relief inhaler should be with you at all times; you never know when you might need it. You should also carry your spacer or valved holding chamber. Use it with your quick-relief inhaler as directed by your doctor.

On really hot days, even regular activity can feel strenuous and cause asthma symptoms.

Your bag should also include a copy of your asthma action plan. Follow the instructions laid out in your plan as soon as you begin to feel asthma symptoms. Your peak flow meter, if prescribed by your doctor, is also good to have on hand. You may have a drop in your peak flow reading before you even begin to feel symptoms. If you do, follow the instructions in your asthma action plan. And make sure to always bring along plenty of water to drink so you can stay hydrated.

Get ready to go.
Using your quick-relief inhaler 15 to 30 minutes before going outside in the heat or exercising will help you avoid asthma symptoms. But asthma medicines only work if you use them the right way. Talk to your doctor about when and how to use your asthma medications.

Take it easy.
On really hot days, even regular activity can feel strenuous and cause asthma symptoms. If possible, schedule outdoor activities in the early morning or late evening. Stay inside where it’s cool as much as possible. When at home or in the car, keep win­dows closed and the air conditioning on. Air-conditioned places like museums, libraries, and movie theaters are cool hangouts for family and friends during the heat of the day.

Splash around.
Splashing around the water park and swimming not only will keep you cool but it also can be great exercise. However, chlorine and other chemicals found in indoor and outdoor pools and water slides can be an asthma trigger. Before jumping in the deep end, make sure the pool area is well ventilated and doesn’t have a strong chlorine or chemical odor. If you can smell the chemicals, you should probably leave.

Go fragrance-free.
Sunscreens, tanning lotion, bug spray, and citronella candles all have fragrances that can worsen asthma symptoms. Choose products that are unscented, and opt for lotions instead of aerosol sprays. You can avoid mosquito breeding grounds by emptying containers with standing water and changing the water in birdbaths every few days.  

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, July/August 2013.