Ah , summer: A time for hiking, biking, picnicking and, for the many people living with asthma, concern. But an asthma diagnosis doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the great outdoors.
Stay active and safe by following these tips from Mark Millard, M.D., a pulmonologist on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and the medical director of the Martha Foster Lung Care Center.
AT THE PARK
One of the best ways to ensure asthma doesn’t interrupt an afternoon game of soccer, a lazy day spent sunbathing or a playground session with the kids, is to prepare. “Using anti-inflammatory sprays on a daily basis can help tremendously,” Dr. Millard says.
“Be sure to also have a quick relief medicine (such as albuterol) on hand, in case of an attack.”
Allergies are another common trigger for asthma attacks at the park, so monitor air quality and pollen counts before you head out.
“Asthma management plans vary from person-to-person, depending on the severity of the asthma, but the one thing to avoid universally is outdoor air on high pollen days,” Dr. Millard says.
AT THE POOL
One of the best forms of exercise for people living with asthma is swimming because of the warm, moist conditions. Being in the water keeps you from sucking in the cooler, dry air that can trigger an attack.
Compared to workouts like running, which ends to be the hardest exercise for people with asthma to tolerate, swimming is a good go-to for calorie burning. Not to mention, it’s a great way to build strength and endurance.
Just one quick tip before you take a dip: Beware of indoor pools that aren’t well-ventilated. The chloramines that build up just above the water can irritate asthmatic airways.
ON THE JOGGING PATH
When heading outside for your workout, be aware of the weather. Hot, humid, or smoggy conditions (anything extreme) can trigger your asthma. Always err on the side of caution and carry your rescue inhaler with you.
“People with asthma should be able to do any exercise they like, it’s just a matter of managing it correctly,” Dr. Millard says. “If you like to run, run. Just be sure to talk to your doctor about how to effectively control your asthma while you run.”
Try to recognize trends, too. For example, some athletes notice than an attack happens after a certain amount of exercise. “Once you recognize this, you can ward it off with two puffs of albuterol in advance,” Dr. Millard says.
“80-90 percent of asthma patients experience exercise-induced asthma.” —American Academy of Family Physicians
“When it comes to being outdoors, we encourage patients to take part in their favorite activities. If you’re saying ‘I can’t’ because of my asthma, it’s time to see your doctor,” Dr. Millard says.
Just because you’re taking a break doesn’t mean your asthma will. When choosing your destination, consider differences in weather, air quality and allergens, and try to avoid regions with high pollution and pollen levels, if possible, Make sure you have enough medication to get you through your trip, and locate a pharmacy near where you will be staying in case you need a refill.
If you will be flying, keep your medicine in a carry-on. Lost luggage is never fun, but it’s worse when your inhaler goes missing. It’s a good idea to pack a couple of allergy-relief pillowcases, too. Swap out the ones provided by the hotel to help prevent a nighttime attack.
And no matter what your plans for the summer area, keep your doctor in the loop.
“The most important part of asthma management is working closely with a physician you trust to create a plan that works for you,” Dr. Millard says. “If your asthma is keeping you from your favorite activities, it’s time tor reevaluate the plans you have in place.”
Asthma doesn’t have to keep you from doing the things you love, so take action against asthma. Replace asthma with ‘Ahh!’.
This content originally appeared in the July 2013 edition of Baylor Health Magazine.