For some people with asthma, a change in weather conditions can be trigger symptoms. While environmental allergens and pollutants such as animal dander, smoke, and pollen are common factors that can aggravate asthma, weather can also play a role. Cold air, humidity, and even thunderstorms are known asthma triggers.
“In people with asthma, the airways become hyper-reactive to allergens such as pollen and irritants such as perfumes,” says Stanley Fineman, MD, MBA, an allergist with the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic.
Humidity, temperature changes, and other weather conditions can also affect asthma. “Temperature changes in the airways can cause inflammation in the airways as well,” says Dr. Fineman. “For most people, this is not a problem. The nose controls humidity without a problem. But for people with allergies and asthma, who may breathe air through the mouth more often, irritants, pollutants, and pollen are more of a factor. Because the airways are inflamed in people with asthma, the more severe the asthma is, the more likely they are to be affected by the weather.”
Your Asthma Weather Report
Common weather triggers that can aggravate asthma symptoms include:
- Cold air. Frigid temperatures can be an asthma trigger. “Cold air seems to predispose people with asthma to have more symptoms,” says Fineman. “Cold air can cause constriction of airways,” says Todd Rambasek, MD, an adult and pediatric allergist at ENT and Allergy Health Services in Cleveland, Ohio. For people with asthma, this can be a dangerous problem.
- Wind and rain. Rainfall can increase and stir up mold spores, and wind can blow around pollen and mold.
- Heat. In the summer months, increased ozone from smog, exhaust fumes, and pollutants tend to be higher and can trigger asthma symptoms.
- Lightning. Thunderstorms, which can generate ozone, are now thought of as an asthma trigger.
- Air pressure fluctuations. “Barometric pressure triggers sinus episodes, and sinusitis is a common trigger for asthma symptoms,” says Dr. Rambasek.
Managing Weather-Related Triggers