Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Overdoing outdoor activities during hot, humid weather, exposure to indoor smoking and dust mites, besides potential sandstorms, are the main triggers of asthma that patients must guard against during summer, doctors have cautioned ahead of World Asthma Day on May 7.

Speaking to Gulf News, Dr. Mohammed Harriss, Consultant Pulmonology, Medcare Hospital Sharjah, said, “Asthma attacks are not rare in summer in UAE weather. One of the main reasons for the prevalence of asthma during the summer season in this part of the world is exposure to sandstorms as well as hot and humid air.

Dr. Mohammed Harriss

Exposure to indoor house dust mites may also be more during summer because people stay indoors in an air-conditioned atmosphere during this season, he said, adding that exposure to passive smoking and active smoking indoors is also higher than during winter.

“People usually prefer to use outdoor smoking areas during the winter season but during summer, people smoke indoors. So when there are children with parents who are exposed to smoking at home, they can have asthma attacks during summer,” he said.

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High levels of dust and sand particles in the air during summer can exacerbate symptoms for those with asthma. Image Credit: Shutterstock

According to the doctor, household domestic pets like cats stay indoors more than they usually do during summer, so exposure to animals with heavy fur can also aggravate asthma attacks during this period.

Typical cases

Dr. Trilok Chand, Consultant & Head of the Department of Respiratory Medicine at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi, said, “Hospital visits of persistent and intermittent asthma patients who are sensitive to change of weather, dust and humidity, generally increase during summer, as allergies and air pollution are two common triggers for asthma during the season here. High levels of dust and sand particles in the air can exacerbate symptoms for those with asthma. Additionally, the hot and humid weather can also contribute to breathing difficulties for individuals with asthma.”

Dr. Trilok Chand

Hot and humid air can increase asthma symptoms in many ways.

Accpording to Dr Harriss, “First mechanism is thermal difference. If people are actively involved in physical outdoor activities during summer, the relative cooling effect of air while doing physical activity can result in an asthma attack. Apart from that, humidity can increase the concentration of certain pollen during summer and exposure to fungal allergens as well as dust mite can increase. Exposure to irritants like some gases and chemicals can be high during hot and humid weather.” 

Image Credit: Vijith Pulikkal/Gulf News

Warm up exercises essential

During summer, outdoor physical activities like running, cycling etc in hot and humid air can precipitate in an asthma attack unless due warming up exercises are done.

“Apart from that, the air quality has to be checked in areas that you will be exercising at. Where there are allergens like pollen or mould quantities are higher, it is best to stay away. During summer, if you are planning to enroll children for overnight summer camps, children with asthma should be careful and stay away from campfires or bonfires and such related sports activities to prevent an asthma attack,” Dr Harriss said.

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He said outdoor activities like swimming in a properly maintained swimming pool with proper temperature and right concentration of chemicals can have a beneficial effect on asthma patients.

Precautionary measures

Dr Chand said it is important for people with asthma to take precautions during the summer months, such as staying indoors during peak heat hours, ensuring their medications are up to date, and avoiding exposure to allergens that may worsen asthma symptoms.

“Asthmatics should stay indoors as much as possible during humid weather. Good quality of air conditioning can help reduce indoor humidity levels and provide a more controlled environment for those with asthma. Before outdoor activities, it is prudent to check the air quality forecast and avoid being outdoors during peak pollution times," he said.

"Additionally, asthmatics should ensure they have their inhaler or medication with them at all times, during summer and humid weather. It is also crucial to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water to help maintain healthy airways. Wearing a face mask can help filter out pollutants and allergens that can trigger asthma symptoms. Keeping windows and doors closed and using a sophisticated air purifier can also help reduce the indoor burden of allergens and irritants during humid weather,” he added.