I've noticed an increase in the number of asthmatics and COPD patients this summer, and quite frankly I have to say I've been using my own rescue inhaler more than normal lately. Apparently other asthma experts have made a similar observation.
Dr. James Thompson over at MyAsthmaCentral.com , "Why My Asthma has Been So Difficult to Control this Summer?," writes that the number of referrals for asthma and allergy consultation has been up across the board. He writes that fall is usually the peak asthma season, yet this year summer appears to be "a close runner up."
He lists five reasons why he thinks this is so:
1. A mild winter: A warmer than normal winter that ended with some really nice days in April lead to a very early pollen season. So this year allergy season lasted from February to May and grass season from May to July hit allergy sufferers double hard.
2. Rain and humidity: There was a lot of rain early, and now humidity levels are very high. As compared to 2009 when July had 1 day over 80, 2010 has had 20 such days which also included high humidity. Dr. Thompson writes, "People with multiple allergen sensitivity (pollen and mold allergy) may experience a priming affect from early spring triggers. In other words, summer allergens (grass and mold) may cause worse symptoms when preceded by spring tree pollen allergy."
3. Changes in weather patters: Actually it's been relatively warm this season, although when the temperature changes some asthmatics have stronger symptoms before the storm, especially when a storm is precipitated by a drop in barometric pressure as you can see by this article.
4. Poor air quality: Ground level ozone can be increased on hot, humid days and can lead to worsening asthma symptoms. He notes that ground level ozone represents 90% of the smog in urban areas. Likewise, ground level ozone peaks in afternoons of warm summer days.
5. Disrupted routines: When school ends, so does the school year routine. He writes that even while the mom and dad continue their daily work routine, the routine of children is changed and medicine normally taken in the morning is not taken. This form of non-compliance can result in worsening asthma control in the summer months. Personally I think this is the key, and I have experienced this myself.
Dr. Thompson also offers some tips for getting through the summer months with asthma
1. Run your air conditioner: This will purify the air in your home and get rid of any humidity. It will likewise reduce mold and dust in your home.
2. Exercise in early morning: Air quality is better in morning, and some allergens are less prevalent. With three little kids this is often hard to adhere to.
3. Alter your medication routine: Do this to account for the change in summer routine so that you are always taking your medicines as prescribed.
4. Plan ahead for vacations: Actually, I offer some tips for traveling with asthma here.
5. Make appointment with your doctor: Do this to plan ahead what you can do to improve your asthma control during the rest of the hot, humid summer months
So just keep in mind you're not alone in having a bit more trouble with your asthma this summer. Yet with planning, you should be able to manage it just fine.