It’s safe to say that most of us look forward to the long hot days of summer. Particularly when summer seems to take its sweet time getting here. But if you’re someone who suffers from a respiratory condition like asthma or COPD, you probably don’t relish the heat quite so much, particularly when it’s combined with high levels of humidity and smog in the air.
Watch our #AskThePharmacist video how to manage your asthma during allergy season
There are other health problems that can be made worse by the heat and humidity, but asthma and COPD are the most prevalent. For context, it is estimated that 1.8 million Canadians suffer from COPD, and 2.4 million suffer from asthma. Both conditions can flare up during extreme heat and humidity, and the very old and very young are the most at risk for complications.
If you suffer from asthma or COPD, the following weather conditions could cause you problems:
There are a number of common sense steps you can take to avoid complications that could be caused by the hot weather this summer:
Heat and intense sunlight can have a detrimental effect on a number of other chronic conditions, including multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, and a variety of skin conditions including rosacea. If you are on medication for a chronic condition and are concerned that the heat and humidity may exacerbate your symptoms, be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist before planning extended outdoor activities during the summer months.
Regardless whether you have a chronic condition, it’s always a good idea to be mindful of the heat and humidity. Heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke are quite common, and although these conditions are more common in people who abuse alcohol and drugs, the elderly and the obese, they can also affect healthy people who push themselves too hard on a hot day.
Heat stroke is the most dangerous of the conditions listed above, and can be deadly if not treated. Symptoms include nausea, headache, confusion, disorientation, dizziness, rapid shallow breathing and loss of consciousness (fainting). If you or someone you know suffers from these symptoms while outside on a hot day, call 911. While you’re waiting for help to arrive, it’s critical that you take immediate steps to bring down your body temperature. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, simply going into an air conditioned environment may suffice. In other cases, a cool shower or ice packs may be called for.
In most cases, you can avoid serious health complications from the heat by simply playing it smart. Stay in the shade, wear lots of sunscreen and don’t overdo it with the physical activity on those really hot days. You’ve waited long enough for the summer. The last thing you want is to spend it in the hospital.