Study: Why Hot Humid Air Triggers Symptoms In Patients With Mild Asthma
May is asthma awareness month, and with summer right around the corner, a study shows that doctors may be closer to understanding why patients with mild asthma have such difficulty breathing during hot, humid weather. The study, appearing in the June print issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found that patients who inhaled an asthma drug before breathing in hot, humid air were able to prevent airway constriction that volunteers without asthma did not experience in the same environment.
Ipratropium, a drug occasionally used for asthma, prevents airway muscle contraction and increases airflow to the lungs. Its success in combating the air temperature response suggests that hot, humid air triggers asthma symptoms by activating airway sensory nerves that are sensitive to an increase in temperature.
We know that breathing cold, dry air induces airway constriction in asthmatics, said Don Hayes, MD, medical director of the Lung and Heart-Lung Transplant Program at Nationwide Childrens Hospital. But the effects that temperature increases have on airway function in these patients are generally overlooked. We know very little about the mechanisms that cause symptoms when asthmatic patients are exposed to hot, humid air.
We dont fully understand the mechanisms underlying these responses, said Dr. Hayes, who is the studys primary author.
What Is The Connection Between Humidity And Asthma
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Weather, any time of the year, is not a friend to people with asthma. But hot, humid days can be some of the most challenging weather conditions we have to contend with.
Have you noticed that your breathing gets worse on days when the humidity rises over 50%? If so, you’re not alone.
I know that during the 30 years I lived in southern New Jersey, my asthma was definitely a lot worse than it’s been in the 3 years I’ve lived in southwestern Colorado. New Jersey, right on the Atlantic coast, has much higher humidity levels than the high desert and mountains of my current home. I especially felt the effects of heat and humidity during the summer allergy season.
Asthma And Humidity Level: Can A Low Or High Humidity Triggers Asthma
The humidity levels in your home can play a big role in your breathing quality. Humidity is how much water vapour is present in the air. Humidity levels that are too high or too low can affect us in different ways.
It has been found that a healthy level of indoor humidity is about 30% to 50%. Anything higher can cause faster growth of microorganisms like dust mites and mould, which are 2 of the most common allergens. If it is too low, it can cause dry skin, dry and cracked lips and throat and sinusitis.
While very high humidity may cause nasal congestion and difficulty in breathing, especially for asthmatic patients, low humidity has its issues.
When the air is too dry, it causes the mucous membranes in the sinus to dry up. This causes the sinus to become irritated and increases your chances of catching a cold or flu.
Also, viruses are more likely to survive longer in dry air than in humid air. Very low humidity can increase feelings of congestion and make breathing harder, thereby triggering some asthma symptoms. To avoid this, during periods where the air is very dry, for example, winter, increase the humidity level in your home using a humidifier or vaporiser.
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How Heat Can Affect Your Copd
Your body is always working to maintain a normal body temperature. When you are exposed to extreme weather conditions, such as extreme heat and humidity, your body must use extra energy to try and cool down. This extra energy causes your body to work harder.
If you have COPD, you are already using much of your energy just to breathe. When you are in extreme heat your body uses more energy while working hard to keep your normal body temperature. If it gets too hot, this can affect a persons breathing.
How To Increase Humidity
Instead of packing your bags and leaving Alberta, there are some things you can do to increase humidity and help your asthma symptoms.
Breathe Through Your Nose
Youve probably been told as a child to not breathe through your mouth. Beyond the annoyance it can cause to those around you, it is actually a great way to keep the moisture inside your body. It aids in keeping the fluid along your airways lined.
Track the Weather
If youre thinking of spending some time outdoors, keep an eye on the humidity levels before making plans. Try to arrange outdoor activities when humidity levels are highest.
Working out, in general, can trigger asthmatic symptoms. This is even truer if you are running or working outside. Try to stick to a gym or at-home workout routine to avoid this.
Buy a Humidifier
You will want to be sure you are frequently changing the filter, but having a humidifier in your home can do wonders for your asthma in an otherwise dry climate like Alberta.
As most of us know, Alberta is known for its dry air. If youre looking for help on how to combat that, contact Advanced Respiratory Care Network today!
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Best Weather For Asthma
There is no optimal weather condition for people with asthma, but many find that consistency in temperatures and conditions is better for symptoms.
Allergens and pollutants in the air are two of the most significant factors that affect asthma symptoms. Certain types of weather may increase both air pollution and common allergens.
Some people with asthma experience problems in very cold or hot temperatures, which can increase airway irritation. Mild temperatures and low levels of humidity might decrease the risk of airway irritation.
Not only is humidity a problem for people with asthma, but other weather conditions can also lead to symptoms.
The weather conditions most likely to trigger asthma include:
- Extreme heat: When temperatures climb, pollution levels may also rise, which can trigger asthma symptoms.
- Cold, dry air: Cold, dry air can irritate the airways and lead to bronchospasm. This often results in common asthma symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, and trouble breathing.
- Windy conditions: Common allergens, such as pollen, blow around in the wind. Add rain into the mix, and it can lead to an increase in mold spores. Both pollen and mold are common triggers for people with asthma.
- Rapid changes in temperature: Some people are also sensitive to a quick change in weather conditions, such as heat one day and cold the next.
Stay Indoors But Make Sure Indoors Is Healthy
Indoor humidity levels in the home can play an important role in family health, particularly when asthma and/or allergies are present. Higher levels of humidity in your home can provide an environment for two undesirable triggers dust mites and mould. There are a number of products on the market that can help to control indoor humidity including air-conditioners, dehumidifiers and heaters. You can find out more about how these products work in our Indoor Humidity factsheet.
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Is It Safe To Use A Vaporizer
We recommend using vaporizers with caution due to the fact that they heat water to a high degree before releasing a hot steam into the air. While these devices can indeed help tremendously in improving air quality and alleviating asthmatic symptoms, they can also present a danger in the home.
If these devices are spilled or hands are placed directly over the output nozzle, an individual could severely burn themselves, causing intense pain and even scarring. If you do decide to use a vaporizer, be sure to do so with caution.
How Does High Humidity Affect Vocs
Humidity affects the presence of VOCs in your home a number of ways. We typically use activated carbon in our homes to filter out unwanted and dangerous VOCs from entering our air. High levels of relative humidity, however, significantly reduces the performance of these activated carbon filters. This has the effect of letting in more VOCs than normal, certainly a terrible consequence of high humidity.Perhaps more alarmingly, an increase in humidity also increases the concentration of VOCs. Volatile organic compounds are nearly omnipresent in our daily lives via the chemicals used to treat common household items. They exist in paints, carpeting, composite wood, upholstery, air fresheners, etc. Your own babys crib could be a hotbed of VOCs and toxins from the pressed wood it was built with, to the glue its held together with, and with the paints its decorated with. When the relative humidity increases in temperature, these VOCs are released in higher amounts from these different sources.This means that a high humidity not only allows more VOCs in, but allows more chemical off-gassing to occur. Definitely horrible news for your familys health.
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Doctors Recommend Staying Hydrated Using Inhaler Prior To Outdoor Activities
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. As Jacksonville-area hospital emergency rooms see an increase in the number of people suffering from heat-related illnesses, the unusually hot weather and humidity is also affecting people who have asthma.
A person suffers asthma when airways to the lungs become swollen, making it difficult to breathe. Asthma sufferers describe the feeling as being like trying to breathe with a rag in your mouth.
The extreme heat and humidity make the air feel even thicker for asthmatics.
“It’s really difficult for you,” said Shavon Stokes, a Jacksonville resident who was born with asthma. “You have a hard time keeping up. Things that are easy for some people become difficult for you.”
Stokes knows when an attack is coming on.
After a while, you get to a point where youre just trying to breathe,” Stokes said. “Youre just trying to get some air in your body.
Dr. Sunil Joshi, with Family Allergy and Asthma Consultants, treats asthma patients. He told News4Jax on Tuesday that he’s seeing an increase in high school athletes suffering from asthma and complaining about shortness of breath.
Theyre exercising in the heat and humidity that theyre not used to doing, and so their asthma tends to flare up as a result of that,” Joshi said.
Joshi warns asthma sufferers who choose to exercise in extremely humid conditions to be careful.
Or if you have asthma, asthma exacerbation, its better to do that indoors if you can,” he said.
What Is The Ideal Air Moisture Level
According to the Mayo Clinic, youll want to maintain a moisture level of about 30-50% when looking to alleviate asthma or allergies. However, according to some sources, 40-60% is ideal, and you may have a personal preference as well depending on your individual needs.
Every person is different, and some individuals may suffer more from dry skin or nasal passages, and some may suffer more from other afflictions due to asthma symptoms. If you keep a humidifier around, be certain to maintain the device to ultimate optimization to keep your air at a healthy humidity level.
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Home Humidity And Your Asthma
Home humidity problems are not only annoying and uncomfortable but can also lead to problems with your asthma control. When humidity levels in the home are high, dust mites and molds tend to thrive. High home humidity levels can lead to asthma symptoms such as:
High home humidity levels are a trigger that indicates too much moisture. You can look around your house for a number of indicators of high humidity levels such as:
- Damp spots on ceilings or walls
- Sweating on the basement floor or walls
- Condensation on water pipes
What Are The Other Ways To Manage Humidity
Dehumidifiers do help relieve asthma attacks caused by moisture, but they always work best along with other medically approved methods for asthma management. As Shepherd points out, these include:
- Reduce exposure to asthma-causing allergens or irritants
- Get a flu shot every year
- Weight management
- Limit exposure to allergens such as pollen, dust, mold and pet dander.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes and vaping
- Breathing techniques such as Buteiko technique
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When Should You See A Healthcare Provider
During the summer months if you notice a decreased peak flow based on your action plan then you would need to seek out a doctors care, Dr. Poinsett says. She also recommends seeing your healthcare provider if you notice the following symptoms:
- Your symptoms do not improve after taking medications.
- You have increased coughing or wheezing.
- You need increased use of your inhaler.
- Your symptoms cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
It is important to have regular checkups with your healthcare provider regarding your asthma management and frequent communication with your healthcare provider if you are concerned about any of your symptoms.
Maintaining Proper Household Humidity
Knowing your homes humidity level is the first step to being able to rectify lowor highhumidity levels. Ensuring all of your heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment is working well is a good first step, including inspection both indoors and outdoors. Using a humidifier or dehumidifier may be necessary, either as a standalone unit or connected to your HVAC equipment such as your furnace, but you may be able to take other steps, too.
It makes sense that steps to increase household humidity are often the opposite of what is recommended to decrease household humidity: adding plants , boiling water on the stove , and air-drying clothes indoors, are all commonly stated ways to increase your homes humidity without buying a standalone humidifier.5
Another website went so far as to say to distribute buckets of water around your house to help humidify but honestly, that seems a little much, no? I havent made any changes yet, and I sure wont be going that route!
Have you ever checked your indoor humidity levels or made changes to modify the humidity inside your house? Let me know in the comments!
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What Does A Humidifier Do For Your Asthma
A humidifier can help to keep allergies and asthma flare-ups away as well. The function of a humidifier is to add water vapour to the atmosphere in your home or the place it is kept. The addition of water vapour will improve the moisture content in the air around you and stabilise the humidity levels bringing it to the ideal relative humidity level.When you have dry air around you, it can cause dry skin and nasal passage, irritation in the airways, leading to allergies, and even aggravate asthma symptoms. When the indoor humidity level is maintained using humidifiers, you get to relax in a comfortable environment that is free from allergens and also safe to breathe in.The reason for caution here is to use the device properly. A humidifier may do you harm if the device is not monitored or maintained. This is because, humidifiers are very much capable of adding excess moisture into the air which will lead to high humidity. An environment that has high humidity is home to allergens and causes hindrance to the lungs and skin breathing. Therefore, keep a close eye on how much moisture the humidifier adds to the air. Ensure that the device is kept clean, to prevent it from spreading air bore diseases and allergens. A humidifier can surely be of service to keep allergies and asthma attacks away when one learns to put it to use correctly.
Is It Safe To Use A Humidifier Around Kids
This depends on your perspective and to some, how old your kids are. Keeping a humidifier around the house with kids who suffer from asthma and allergies can be enormously helpful for their physical wellbeing and even their mental health. Its easy to become run-down in mood when your physical health is low.
However, if you have a warm-mist humidifier, keeping hot water around or a humidifier that lets off a hot steam could be dangerous as they can cause burns if spilled. If your children are rambunctious, clumsy, or simply small, it might be wise to use one that doesnt heat the water too much before release.
In case you’re looking for baby-friendly humidifiers here’s our list with top-rated picks.
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What Can I Do To Make It Easier To Breathe When Its Humid Outside
When its hot and humid outside, there are some things you can do to try and lessen the effects on your asthma.Lessen other asthma irritants by avoiding things that you know will trigger your asthma. For example, perfumes, aerosols, and smoking.
Here are some tips on how to cope with both humidity and asthma during the warmer months:
- Stay on top of your preventive medicines and talk to your doctor right away if they dont seem to be effective.
- Install a dehumidifier in your home or purchase a portable one. Set it to keep your home between 30 and 50 percent.
- Stay indoors/keep on your air conditioner as much as possible. This keeps the air moving in your home and help prevents the mold from growing and dust mites from breeding.
- Avoid strenuous exercise outdoors during the hottest and most humid times.
Having asthma can make catching your breath a bit tougher in the summertime, but if you are armed with a little knowledge and some common sense, you can muddle through just fine.
Are there any tips we missed? Be sure to share them with us if so.
How To Measure Humidity Levels
While humidity levels require a formula for accurate measurement, a hygrometer will automatically measure the humidity level of your home .
Some smart thermostats have a built-in hygrometer, which is handy. If you have a good, old-fashioned thermostat, you can find a great hygrometer at a low cost on Amazon, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, or anywhere home appliances are sold.
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