Humid Air Is Heavy And Harder To Breathe In
Have you ever felt that it is harder to breathe when atmospheric conditions are hot and humid? A study published a few years ago found that humid air actually increases airway inflammation and causes airways to narrow.4
Leon Lebowitz, BA, RRT, here at Asthma.net states:
“If youve ever exercised on a hot, summer day you know that it seems harder to breathe. Add some humidity to the scenario, and breathing is even more difficult. These very same conditions seem to create much more difficulty for those with asthma. It is not entirely clear as to why the heat and humidity affect asthmatics the way they do. Quite simply, hot, humid air is heavier than normal air and so, is more difficult to breathe. These conditions create a chain reaction of events that can raise the body temperature, increase sweating and possibly dehydration, and cause you to breathe at a faster rate. When a person with asthma is having difficulty breathing , these conditions can easily exacerbate asthma symptoms, even without actually causing them.”
Besides the effect that breathing warm air, especially warm, humid air can have on your ability to breathe, there are other factors to consider. Hot, moist air creates the perfect breeding ground for mold growth and dispersal of mold spores into the air. It’s also a great environment for dust mite growth. These are two of the main allergens for people who have allergic asthma.
Make A Plan To Manage Your Asthma
Its important to recognize what your triggers are, says Jeff Raub, MD, allergist and immunologist with TriHealth Group Health. Then you can create a plan of action with your health provider. Ive lived with asthma for 36 years, so I know how important it is to develop habits that will help you breathe better and make physical activities more enjoyable.
Here are some tips he offers for managing asthma in the spring or anytime:
Know The 4 Steps Of Asthma First Aid
Its important for everyone in the community to know the 4 steps of asthma first aid.
One of the most common reliever medications in Australia is salbutamol, often known as your blue puffer. These are available over the counter from a chemist.
If you are not sure if someone is having an asthma attack, you can still use blue reliever medication because it is unlikely to cause harm.Call triple zero immediately if:
- the person is not breathing
- their asthma suddenly becomes worse or is not improving
- the person is having an asthma attack and theres no reliever medication available
- the person is unsure if it is asthma
- the person is known to have anaphylaxis. If this is the case, ALWAYS GIVE ADRENALINE AUTOINJECTOR FIRST, and then reliever, even if there are no skin symptoms.
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Is It Because I Quit Smoking
If you’ve been smoking for a while, it shouldn’t be a surprise if you can’t breathe as well. Of the many health problems that come with tobacco, lung disease is at the top.
But you may not realize that when you stop lighting up, you can have short stints where you can’t catch your breath.
As you smoke, you damage your lungs. It can take a while for them to heal once you’ve stopped. Aside from trouble breathing, you can have:
- Craving for cigarettes or nicotine
Advice For Friends And Family
It’s important that your friends and family know how to help in an emergency.
It can be useful to make copies of your personal asthma action plan and share it with others who may need to know what to do when you have an attack.
You can photocopy your existing plan, or you could download a blank personal asthma action plan from Asthma UK and fill it in for anyone who might need a copy.
Or you could take a photo of your action plan on your phone, so you can show or send it to others easily.
Page last reviewed: 19 April 2021 Next review due: 19 April 2024
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Learn First Aid For Someone Who Is Having An Asthma Attack
1. Help the person sit in a comfortable position and take their inhaler.
When someone has an asthma attack, their airways narrow, making it difficult for them to breathe. An inhaler relaxes the muscles, allowing the airways to expand and ease their breathing.
2. Reassure the person. If the attack becomes severe, or they don’t have their inhaler, call 999 as soon as possible.
A mild attack should ease within a few minutes. If it doesnt, they can continue to take their inhaler. You should call 999 if they they dont have their inhaler, their inhaler has no effect, they are becoming worse or they become unable to talk. Do not leave them, in case the attack becomes severe quickly. If you cant call 999, get someone else to do it.
How Do Healthcare Providers Diagnose Asthma
Your healthcare provider will review your medical history, including information about your parents and siblings. Your provider will also ask you about your symptoms. Your provider will need to know any history of allergies, eczema and other lung diseases.
Your provider may order spirometry. This test measures airflow through your lungs and is used to diagnose and monitor your progress with treatment. Your healthcare provider may order a chest X-ray, blood test or skin test.
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Signs That You Need To Use Asthma First Aid
If you are experiencing any of the following signs, follow your asthma action plan. If you do not have an asthma action plan, or you are assisting someone who is experiencing an asthma attack, start asthma first aid. Do not wait until asthma is severe.
Mild to moderate asthma signs :
- able to talk in full sentences
- able to walk or move around
- may have a cough or wheeze.
Severe asthma signs :
- cannot speak a full sentence in one breath
- tugging of the skin between ribs or at base of neck
- may have cough or wheeze
- reliever medication not lasting as long as usual.
Life-threatening asthma signs :
- getting little or no relief from reliever inhaler
- may no longer have wheeze or cough.
In asthma emergencies, follow your asthma action plan.
Asthma Symptoms: 5 Signs Your Shortness Of Breath Is Serious
If you suffer from shortness of breath, youre not alone. Its a common symptom and one that prompts many people to see a doctor or seek other medical treatment. Knowing when your shortness of breath is an emergency isnt always easy. It can be the result of hyperventilation, acid reflux, or a panic attack cases when shortness of breath usually recedes on its own or more serious issues involving your respiratory health. There are many possible causes of shortness of breath, as well as signs that its time to seek medical help.
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Why Have Your Asthma Symptoms Got Worse
Before your appointment, have a think about your symptoms and why you think theyve got worse. Itll help you and your GP to work out whats going on with your asthma.
Ask yourself these questions to help you:
Have I been taking my preventer inhaler every day?
Preventer medicines stop inflammation building up in your airways. But they can only do this if you take them every day.
If you stop taking them you wont have full protection. And your symptoms will come back.
Have you been taking yours every day? Or have you found it hard to get into a good routine?
Do I know the best way to take my inhalers?
Even if youve been taking an inhaler for years, its easy to slip into bad habits. If you havent been taking your inhaler correctly you will have been missing out on the full dose of asthma medicine.
Are you confident youre taking your inhalers in the right way? Watch our inhaler videos to see if youre doing it right. And ask your GP or asthma nurse to check it at your appointment.
Have I been around more of my usual asthma triggers?
Maybe youve caught a cold, or its pollen season and your hay fevers bad. Think about your usual triggers and if they might be affecting you more.
Have I come across a new trigger?
Have you been around an animal or pet? Did you start a new job, or go on holiday? Tell your doctor if youve spotted a new trigger. They can help you deal with it.
What else has been going on in my life lately?
Have I noticed hormonal changes?
Therapies For Severe Cases
A person with severe COVID-19 may need supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation. The latter involves inserting a tube into a persons windpipe. The tube is connected to a machine called a ventilator that helps the person breathe.
Other treatments aim to help control the infection and address problems involving the blood and the functioning of other organs.
The American Lung Association say that doing breathing exercises can help make the lungs work more efficiently. This may help a person with a mild case of COVID-19 that causes shortness of breath.
Here are a few strategies to try:
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Differences Between Copd And Asthma
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a progressive lung disorder most commonly associated with smoking. In the early stages of the disease, the symptoms may mimic those of asthma. It may even flare if the lungs are exposed to allergens, fumes, or cold weather.
Among the differentiating early clues are fluid retention, trouble sleeping, an increasing nagging cough, and bringing up clear, whitish, or yellow phlegm.
Contact Doctor During Office Hours
- Don’t have written asthma action plan from your doctor
- Use an inhaler, but don’t have a spacer
- Miss more than 1 day of school per month for asthma
- Asthma limits exercise or sports
- Asthma attacks wake child up from sleep
- Use more than 1 inhaler per month
- No asthma check-up in more than 1 year
- You have other questions or concerns
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When To See The Doctor
A good rule of thumb is you should visit your doctor if you have asthma and you wake up in the night more than once per week after using treatments. Your doctor can evaluate what may be causing your symptoms and help modify your treatment plan. Checking your breath in a peak flow meter at night may also be helpful.
If you are not diagnosed with asthma but have asthma-like symptoms at night, you should report the episodes to your doctor. While you may not have asthma, your doctor can point you in the right direction for treatment.
Pollen Levels Are On The Rise
Starting in the spring, pollen levels begin to rise in the air you breathe. In the early to late spring, trees are blooming and sending out millions of pollen particles. Then late spring into summer, when hot temperatures are first beginning to be felt, depending on where you live, it’s grass pollen. And finally, in late summer, when temps are often at their highest levels, it’s weed pollen that is in play.3
If you have allergic asthma, pollen can be a powerful trigger. I know it’s one of my worst asthma triggers.
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How Do You Monitor Asthma Symptoms
You should keep track of your asthma symptom. Its an important piece of managing the disease. Your healthcare provider may ask to use a peak flow meter. This device measures how fast you can blow air out of your lungs. It can help your provider make adjustments to your medication. It also tells you if your symptoms are getting worse.
Take A Preventative Stance
If youre especially sensitive to springtime allergens, use air conditioning in the house and car to limit your exposure. If youve been outdoors, wash your hair and clothes when you get home to get rid of those allergens. Clear your nasal passages with a Neti pot or other nasal irrigation method. Indoors, try to clear your house of allergens that trigger you.
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Trouble Breathing While Resting
First, what is shortness of breath?
Shortness of breath means you’re consciously thinking about breathing, even while you’re at rest. If you can’t breathe properly while sitting or lying down, call 911 immediately.
Normally, breathing is something we do without thinking. Without any conscious thought, breathing keeps us alive. We naturally breathe slower when we’re asleep and faster when we’re exercising. So if you’re panting after an uphill bike ride or walking up some stairs, that’s normal. If you’re breathing harder after intense physical activity , a doctor wouldn’t consider that “shortness of breath” medically significant.
Medically speaking, “shortness of breath” means a patient has to actually think about breathing.
What Is Good Asthma Care
Your doctor or nurse will tailor your asthma treatment to your symptoms. Sometimes you may need to be on higher levels of medication than at others.
You should be offered:
- care at your GP surgery provided by doctors and nurses trained in asthma management
- full information about your condition and how to control it
- involvement in making decisions about your treatment
- regular checks to ensure your asthma is under control and your treatment is right for you
- a written personal asthma action plan agreed with your doctor or nurse
It is also important that your GP or pharmacist teaches you how to properly use your inhaler, as this is an important part of good asthma care.
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Other Asthma First Aid Directions
Not everyone with asthma uses the same reliever medication.
Some people use a different blue reliever called Bricanyl which comes in a different type of inhaler called a Turbuhaler.
See the asthma first aid steps for those using Bricanyl.
Other people use a dual-purpose reliever. A dual-purpose reliever contains budesonide and formoterol together, and is used as-needed.
The combination of budesonide and formoterol in the dual-purpose reliever, when used as-needed, relieves symptoms and reduces risk of experiencing serious asthma flare-ups. It does this by relaxing tight airway muscles and treating inflammation in the airways.
Note: you may also be prescribed these medicines as a preventer. Always follow your doctors instructions on your asthma action plan about what to use in an asthma flare-up or asthma attack.
Take Action Now To Lower Your Risk Of An Asthma Attack
If youre getting more asthma symptoms its a sign that your airways are getting more inflamed and narrow. This makes it harder for air to get through and means an asthma attack is more likely.
The sooner you can treat the inflammation in your airways, the sooner you can lower your risk of an asthma attack.
See your doctor today
- Ask the receptionist for an urgent same day appointment. Tell them your asthmas getting worse and you need to see a GP or asthma nurse for urgent advice to avoid having an asthma attack.
- If you cant get an urgent same day appointment, or your GP surgery is closed, . They may be able to arrange for you to be seen at a walk-in centre or by an out of hours doctor.
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Ozone Levels Rise In Hot Sunshiny Days
Besides the increase in allergen levels for pollen, mold, and dust mites, hot sunshiny days can also cause ozone levels to rise. And when that happens, air pollutants become trapped in the air. Air pollutants are a common irritant for people with asthma. While they don’t produce an allergic reaction, per se, they do worsen existing asthma symptoms and contribute to a decline in asthma control.2,3
Side Effects Of Relievers And Preventers
Relievers are a safe and effective medicine, and have few side effects as long as they are not used too much. The main side effects include a mild shaking of the hands , headaches and muscle cramps. These usually only happen with high doses of reliever inhaler and usually only last for a few minutes.
Preventers are very safe at usual doses, although they can cause a range of side effects at high doses, especially with long-term use.
The main side effect of preventer inhalers is a fungal infection of the mouth or throat . You may also develop a hoarse voice and sore throat.
Using a spacer can help prevent these side effects, as can rinsing your mouth or cleaning your teeth after using your preventer inhaler.
Your doctor or nurse will discuss with you the need to balance control of your asthma with the risk of side effects, and how to keep side effects to a minimum.
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Can Asthma Be Prevented
Asthma cant be prevented entirely, but there are some practical ways to reduce the risk of an asthma attack and live well with asthma.
- Get vaccinated for influenza: flu and other respiratory viruses are common triggers for asthma.
- Manage any allergies: asthma and allergies are closely linked, so treating allergic rhinitis and avoiding or managing any allergy triggers will help with your asthma.
- Live smoke-free: quit smoking if you smoke, and avoid any second-hand smoke .
- Eat well: a balanced diet helps you to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese makes asthma harder to manage.
- Care for yourself: mental health and asthma are linked, so let a trusted friend or your doctor know if you have been feeling sad or anxious, or dont enjoy things as much as before.
- See your doctor regularly: asthma needs to be regularly assessed and managed, and your medication needs may change over time. Ensure your asthma action plan is up to date by checking in with your doctor regularly.