The school year is now a memory and the fun of summer break lies ahead. But along with plenty of sun and warm weather, summer also brings some common asthma triggers for kids.
Fortunately, the first step to overcoming those triggers is knowing they’re there in the first place. While you can’t always prevent an asthma attack, avoiding potential allergens and asthma triggers is an important first step in the right direction.
That’s why we’ve created this quick guide to summertime asthma triggers. Read on to learn more.
The connection between allergens and asthma
If you live in Tennessee and north Georgia, you’re all too familiar with the effects of seasonal allergies. But have you ever wondered why all those allergens also seem to kick up asthma, too?
That’s because the same substances that cause seasonal allergy symptoms — those allergens — can also be asthma triggers in some people.
In fact, half of all cases of asthma are closely tied to allergies. The type of asthma at fault in those cases is called “extrinsic” asthma, meaning it’s caused by external allergens in the environment.
Summertime asthma triggers: Heat & humidity
Ever been outdoors on a hot summer day and suddenly felt like you couldn’t breathe? That’s not entirely uncommon — particularly for those with asthma.
Heat accompanied by high humidity levels can be particularly troublesome. Hot, humid air can lead to coughing and shortness of breath.
While the heat and humid air themselves can cause an asthma attack, combining the warmth and humidity together also makes the air a conducive environment for dust mites and mold, which can also trigger asthma.
If your little one has asthma, keep a close eye on the temperature. When it’s particularly hot outside, you may want to limit your time spent outdoors. Instead, enjoy the outdoors in the early morning hours or the later evening hours, when the sun’s rays aren’t as intense and the temperatures have cooled slightly.
Summertime asthma triggers: Chlorine
Hitting up the pool to cool down? That might not be the best idea if you have an asthma sufferer in your family.
The smell of chlorine from pools can be an irritant, causing flare-ups of allergy-like symptoms or asthma in some people.
You don’t have to skip pool time altogether if chlorine causes problems with your child, but check with his or her doctor to see what’s recommended to help ease the symptoms and prevent the reactions in the first place.
Summertime asthma triggers: Certain foods
When you think of an allergic reaction to a food, you likely think of a food allergy. But in some cases, people who have grass or tree pollen allergies can experience cross-reactions to common summer fruits and veggies, like peaches.
That’s because the fruits and vegetables contain similar proteins to those found in the pollens.
If your child experiences this phenomenon, called oral allergy syndrome, it can trigger an asthma attack, too. Your best strategy is to know your child’s allergen(s) and keep an eye on any foods that could potentially cause cross-reactions.
Summertime asthma triggers: Fire smoke
Whether you’re sitting around a bonfire in the backyard or enjoying marshmallows over a campfire in the woods, the resulting smoke can be a powerful asthma trigger.
Avoiding this trigger can be fairly easy — sit upwind of the smoke, switch positions if the wind shifts and don’t get too close to the fire. You want to breathe fresh rather than smoky air.
Summertime asthma triggers: Pollen
Pollen, pollen everywhere! Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock this spring, you’ve seen the familiar yellow residue of pollen on every surface outdoors. And it’s not going away anytime soon.
To keep pollen from triggering an asthma attack, keep your home’s windows shut and your AC on. Vacuum and dust your home regularly to remove any pollen that’s tracked into the home. Watch the pollen count and keep your little one indoors on days it’s highest.
If you do have to go outdoors on those days, wash off and change clothes when you come indoors to keep pollen from spreading around your home.
If your child’s asthma seems to be harder and harder to control, talk with your pediatrician about what’s going on. Learn more about Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger here.