Heat, humidity not what doctor ordered
Hot weather zaps most of us, but it’s a significant challenge for people who suffer from lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, and asthma.
High temperatures and humidity deliver a double whammy.
Inhaling hot air causes airway inflammation, which exacerbates respiratory disorders, the American Lung Association says. People who have asthma already suffer from inflamed airways.
A 2013 study from Johns Hopkins University found a relationship between rising temperatures and the number of emergency hospital admissions for COPDand respiratory tract infections among people 65 and older.
The National Emphysema Foundation explains that higher temperatures “require your body to go into overdrive to maintain a regular temperature.”
“That is true for even the healthiest individuals,” the foundation states on its website. “The harder your body works, the more oxygen it needs, which in turn makes breathing more difficult.”
Heat also is hard on heart patients, people who are diabetic, and those who are pregnant, said Krista Schneider, director of the Marion County health department.
“Everything is exacerbated,” she said.
Patients with respiratory conditions and other challenges should stay inside as much as possible, Schneider said. That’s especially true when temperatures soar above 90 degrees, according to insurance company Anthem.
Hydration also is key.
“Keeping a controlled temperature is best for not flaring those conditions,” Schneider said. “I know that’s not always possible.”
If you must go outside — especially if you are dependent on oxygen — wear light-colored clothing, keep your time in the heat to a minimum, and find a shady place to rest, Schneider said.
Lung patients should keep medications — including rescue inhalers if prescribed — available.
They — and all of us, really — should pay attention to whether medications are affected by sunlight.
“People who take immunologics are told to stay out of the sun,” Schneider said. “Be aware if the medication that you’re taking warns that you should stay out of sunlight. Talk to your pharmacist about your meds.”
It’s not related to respiratory challenges, but Schneider also wanted to mention to be sure not to leave children and pets in vehicles.
Last modified July 20, 2023