American Lung Association

DOVER — This week, heat advisories are in effect for areas of Delaware. These extreme weather conditions can make breathing more difficult for anyone but can be especially challenging for residents living with lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma.

Inhaling hot air is known to promote airway inflammation and exacerbate respiratory disorders like COPD. Hot weather can also be a trigger for people with asthma. Because individuals with chronic lung disease already have inflamed airways, weather is more likely to have an impact, as breathing in hot, humid air induces airway constriction. It also takes more work for the body to breathe in humid air, so people may feel short of breath sooner than usual.

The American Lung Association offers these six tips to protect lung health in extreme heat:

  • Monitor air quality. Air pollution can be very high in summer, and those with asthma and other lung diseases are at higher risk of being negatively impacted by it.
  • Don’t try to exercise outside in extreme heat. It’s not just uncomfortable; it can be deadly.
  • Ensure you are taking steps to keep your body cool, such as drinking plenty of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty; wearing lightweight, loose clothing; staying in air-conditioned buildings, like malls or public libraries; not using electric fans when temperatures are 95 degrees or higher (these do not reduce body temperature and could increase risk of heat-related illness); and taking cool showers or baths to bring body temperatures down.
  • Keep all medications handy. It is important for people with chronic lung diseases to always keep quick-relief medicine with them and to follow their action plans. If extreme weather is coming, patients should make sure they have enough medication to last a few days. And contact a health care provider if symptoms do not improve or are worrisome.
  • Ask for help. The American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine at 800-LUNGUSA is staffed by nurses and respiratory therapists, and is a free resource to answer questions about the lungs, lung disease and lung health, including how to protect those organs during extreme heat.
  • Help others. Check on elderly and vulnerable neighbors frequently to ensure their homes are safely cooled and vented.

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