Has the sudden onset of sunny summer weather got you cowering indoors beside a fan or the air conditioner? The truth is summer air can sometimes be harder to breathe. Pollution levels are higher, trees and grass are releasing aggravating pollen, and the humidity alone is an obstacle to regular breathing.
Even people who don’t normally have difficulty breathing can find themselves affected by poorer air quality on particularly hot, humid summer days and begin to wilt when the thermometer starts to bypass the 25° mark.
The burden can be even harder to bear if your health is compromised by a pre-existing health condition.
Unfortunately, hiding at home is rarely an option. Luckily, there are things you can do to minimize your discomfort and breathe easier.
How to protect yourself:
- Check the Air Quality Index and be aware.
Check your local Air Quality Health Index and Pollen Index. These will inform you on the levels of pollutants in the air and give you a good idea of how safe the air outside is for you to breathe. Also watch out for air quality advisories that will tell you when it is not safe to go outside.
- Know how sensitive you are to the air quality. If you have asthma, allergies, COPD (including chronic bronchitis and emphysema) or a heart condition, you are likely to suffer more. Monitor your symptoms. Follow your treatment action plan but if symptoms worsen consult your doctor.
- Reduce exposure. Change your activity level when the air is polluted. Listen to your body. Some people are more sensitive to smog and may feel the effects even before an air quality advisory is issued.
- Try to take it easier out of doors, or move your activity indoors. Even if you can’t change your schedule, consider changing the intensity or length of your activity. For example, instead of jogging for half an hour, walk for half an hour, or jog for 15 minutes. By adjusting when and where you exercise, you can reduce your breathing difficulties when the air is polluted. For otherwise healthy individuals, consider avoiding strenuous outdoor exercise.
- If you are a susceptible person, try to run errands in the morning or later at night. If you are older or living with lung or heart disease, you may be more comfortable indoors in a cool, clean environment.
- Stay hydrated. If you are on medication for lung or heart disease, including asthma, follow your action plan carefully.
Ultimately, summer weather is to be enjoyed, not dreaded. Basic awareness and consideration of your own sensitivities can help you get the most out of the season.
For more information about what you can do to improve your breathing during the summer months, contact the BC Lung Association toll free at 1.800.665.5864.