Summer can be an especially challenging season for people with asthma. The humid air, combined with grass pollen and mold, can trigger asthma symptoms and makes it harder for some people with asthma to breathe. Planning ahead for activities this summer can help you breathe easier, says Sharon Yee, MD, an allergist affiliated with Montefiore Nyack Hospital and Allergy and Asthma Consulants of Rockland and Bergen.
“While we often think of springtime as allergy season, it extends into summer,” Dr. Yee said. There’s still grass pollen in the air, and weed pollen starts appearing at the end of August.”
The humid air traps allergens for longer periods, making them even more bothersome than usual. This includes pollen as well as other allergens such as dust and mold. “On rainy days, the mold counts increase, and humid environments tend to have more dust mites as well,” Dr. Yee said.
To avoid an asthma attack this summer, she advises:
- On humid days, stay indoors as much as possible to avoid exposure to allergens.
- Keep the air conditioning on wherever you are—in your home and car.
- Take your allergy medications.
- Have your rescue inhaler with you, and if you are prescribed daily asthma medications, make sure you take them.
- If you have asthma symptoms—shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, or difficulty breathing—even after you take your medications, see your doctor. Other possible signs of uncontrolled asthma are fatigue, decreased exercise tolerance and a general feeling of being “under the weather.”
Kids and Asthma
If your child has asthma, make sure anyone supervising their summer activities, whether at camp or other programs, knows your child has asthma and has a copy of their asthma action plan. This is a written plan that you create with your child's doctor to help control your child's asthma. The goal of an asthma action plan is to reduce or prevent flare-ups and emergency department visits.
Each plan should cover:
- what medicines to take and when
- a list of possible triggers
- early symptoms of flare-ups and what to do if they happen
- know how to manage a full-blown flare-up
- when to get emergency care
“Parents also should educate their kids about how to know when their asthma is flaring up, and what to do if that happens,” Dr. Yee said.
If your asthma is mild, pack your rescue inhaler just in case you experience a flare-up while you’re away.
If you have more severe asthma, make sure you have all of your asthma medication with you. If you don’t have a prescription for steroids for severe flare-ups, ask your doctor if you should have one to carry as a precaution, Dr. Yee recommends.
“Asthma shouldn’t limit your daily activity,” she said. “As long as you’re taking your asthma medications, and have a clear asthma action plan, you should be able to do everything you want to do this summer.”