World Asthma Day 2024: Can heatwave trigger asthma attacks? Know symptoms, tips to manage

High temperatures and humidity levels can cause swelling and narrowing of bronchial tubes. This can cause worrying symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath.

World Asthma Day is celebrated every year on the first Tuesday of May to spread awareness around the respiratory disease and how to manage it to reduce mortality and improve quality of life.(Freepik)

The ongoing heatwave conditions in the country can spell bad news for asthma patients who could experience exacerbation in their symptoms. Extreme weather including severe heat is linked with irritated and inflamed airways and narrowing of bronchial tubes. Scorching heat also affects air quality which could increase ozone pollution and particulate pollution. All these factors can lead to asthma attacks or worsen the disease. It’s thus important for asthma patients to prevent heat exposure, stay hydrated and follow their prescribed medications religiously.

What is asthma and why World Asthma Day is celebrated?

Asthma, a common respiratory disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the small airways in the lungs can lead to worrying symptoms like cough, wheeze, shortness of breath and chest tightness. World Asthma Day is celebrated every year on the first Tuesday of May to spread awareness around the respiratory disease and how to manage it to reduce mortality and improve quality of life. This year World Asthma Day is being celebrated on May 7, Tuesday.

“In hot and humid conditions, managing asthma becomes particularly challenging due to several factors that exacerbate symptoms. These conditions can trigger airway inflammation, bronchoconstriction, and increase exposure to air pollutants, all of which can worsen asthma symptoms. One of the primary challenges for asthma patients during heatwaves is increased airway inflammation. High temperatures and humidity levels can lead to the release of pro-inflammatory mediators in the airways, causing swelling and narrowing of the bronchial tubes. This inflammation makes it harder for individuals with asthma to breathe, leading to symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness,” says Dr RK Chopra, MD (medicine), MD (Respiratory medicine), Senior Consultant Respiratory Medicine Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune.

Dr Chopra says hot and humid conditions can result in increased levels of air pollutants such as ozone.

“Ozone is a powerful respiratory irritant that can trigger asthma symptoms and exacerbate airway inflammation. Exposure to high levels of ozone can lead to more frequent and severe asthma attacks, especially in individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions,” he says.

To manage asthma during heatwaves, it’s essential for patients to take proactive measures to minimize exposure to triggers and alleviate symptoms. Dr Chopra suggests the following tips:

Staying indoors: Avoiding outdoor activities during the hottest parts of the day when air quality is typically the poorest.

Using air conditioning: Keeping indoor environments cool and well-ventilated can help reduce exposure to heat and humidity, as well as filter out indoor air pollutants.

Staying hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids helps keep airways moist and can prevent dehydration, which can worsen asthma symptoms.

Taking prescribed medications: Following the asthma action plan provided by a healthcare provider is crucial. This may involve using quick-relief inhalers (bronchodilators) to alleviate acute symptoms and controller medications (such as corticosteroids) to manage underlying inflammation.

Monitoring symptoms: Being vigilant about changes in asthma symptoms and seeking medical attention promptly if symptoms worsen despite medication use.

Overall, managing asthma during heatwaves requires a combination of preventive measures, medication management, and proactive monitoring to ensure optimal respiratory health and minimize the risk of asthma exacerbations

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