Can the Weather Affect Your Child’s Asthma? (Plus, 6 Tips to Avoid It!)
Asthma can get significantly worse during certain times of the year. Sudden changes in the weather, even a slight increase or decrease in temperature, can affect asthma symptoms. A study done by doctors at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan confirmed that any change in temperatures, up or down, could set off an asthma attack. This is the first study to document the effect weather fluctuations on asthma.
A Canadian study led by Dr. Robert E. Dales, of the University of Ottawa Health Research Institute, reported that emergency room visits for asthma increased 15% on days with thunderstorms. Thunderstorms dislodge mold spores, which then get trapped and suspended in rain droplets and spread by the wind. If your child seems to have an asthmatic reaction during or after thunderstorms, it is a good idea to have him/her tested for allergies to fungi.
Another problem with thunderstorms is that the wind blows pollen and other allergens, along with mold spores, to ground level and into lower airways.
Mold peaks in July in warmer states, and in the fall in colder states. Pollen counts are highest in spring. Grass allergies peak in summer, and ragweed in fall.
Wind and Rain
Windy, dry conditions aggravate hay fever symptoms and cause allergic reactions in the eyes, lungs, and nose, as well. On the other hand, rain can actually be a good thing for people with asthma. A heavy rain cleans the air while it falls, but on the flip side causes growth to grass and trees, thus indirectly increasing pollen counts.
Heat and Smog
In warm weather months, smog, exhaust, and pollutant levels are higher. Pollutants can be very dangerous for people with asthma. They inflame the airways, although the effects are generally not felt until one to two days after exposure. It is suggested that diesel engine exhaust, another form of smog, can increase sensitivity to pollen and dust mites as well.
A study led by Bart Ostro, PhD, of the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, found significant increases in asthma symptoms in areas with more traffic pollutants. The study also cited wind patterns as contributing factors to the spread of pollutants. People living downward of major roads were exposed to the most pollutants.
Cold and Snow
Cold weather strongly affects those with both allergic and exercise-induced asthma. Breathing in cool air causes airways to swell and constrict, especially while doing strenuous activities outside. Those doing outdoor activities can breathe in through their mouths to avoid the warming and humidifying effect of air going through the nose.
No matter the type of weather, it can present a problem for asthma sufferers. “It is very, very clear that weather change plays a key role in asthma flare-ups,” said Dr. Robert Strunk, professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine. “Mothers will tell you: any change in the weather, hot to cold, cold to hot, rain to no rain; any change will have an effect.”
Six Tips to Avoid Weather-Induced Asthma Symptoms:
- Watch the forecast, and avoid going outside on peak trigger days. Keep in mind that pollen levels are highest before 10 a.m., and the best time to be outside is after a soaking rain.
- Wear natural fabrics, like cotton, to attract less pollen and reduce static electricity, which is also an attractor.
- Use a mask and glasses to work around the yard. Shower and wash clothes afterwards. Do not line-dry objects, and remove shoes before entering the home.
- Avoid high endurance and extended activities during trigger days.
- Use the recirculation air button in the car.
- Use HEPA vacuums. Avoid drapes and carpet, and opt instead for hardwood floors and shutters.