Changes in Weather Can Trigger Asthma Attacks

An incoming storm can wreak havoc on your lungs, as researchers find a link between weather and asthma.

September 15, 2009

Study: A change in the weather can make asthma attacks more likely.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Many people suffering from severe asthma attacks say a change in weather triggers their attacks, and now there's a large study that seems to back up that statement. The new research is published in this month's Annals of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology. "We found a strong relationship between temperature and humidity fluctuations with pediatric asthma exacerbations, but not barometric pressure," said Nana A. Mireku, MD, an allergist at Dallas Allergy Immunology in Dallas, formerly at Children’s Hospital of Michigan-Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI. "To our knowledge, this is the first study that demonstrates these correlations after controlling for levels of airborne pollutants and common aeroallergens."


THE DETAILS: A two-year study at a city hospital looked at nearly 25,500 emergency-room visits by children for asthma attacks. Researchers controlled for daily air pollution and airborne allergies that are known to trigger attacks, and found that a 10 percent daily increase in humidity one or two days before a given day was linked to an additional asthma-related emergency room visit on that day. Increases in childhood asthma cases in the emergency room were also noted when humidity changed two to three days before the attack. Nearly two additional visits for asthma issues occurred when there was a 10-degree increase in temperature the day or two before admission.

WHAT IT MEANS: The National Institutes of Health lists weather fluctuations as a major asthma trigger, but doesn't cite evidence. This study provides evidence for the phenomenon that many asthma-sufferers already know all too well. And if you’re an asthma sufferer, though you can't control the weather, there are things you can do to make an attack less likely. "It's more the change in humidity and temperature than the absolute number" explains Richard G. Gower, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and clinical associate professor of medicine at University of Washington in Seattle. "This makes the case for controlling asthma on a regular basis, particularly when it flares up, even more important.

Here's how to keep your asthma under control, even if a storm's rolling in.

• Limit lung irritants. Avoid stress, which can trigger attacks, banish scented candles, hairsprays, and air fresheners, and learn to create healthy indoor air quality. You can also fill your home with pollution-zapping houseplants. Plan to spend more time indoors during periods of weather that aggravate your symptoms. Also, if you suffer from allergic asthma, the most common type, avoid spending a lot of time outdoors or mowing the lawn whenever the trigger you're allergic to is in the air.

• Be prepared. Dr. Gower says people living with asthma should make sure they take controller medication, and have rescue medications on hand in case of an asthma attack. When a weather forecast predicts a rise in temperature or humidity, or an change that seems to worsen your asthma, take it as a cue to make sure you have the medicine you need on hand.

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Tags: asthma

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