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Heat can trigger asthma symptoms. Be prepared as summer approaches.

Remember when the temp hit 108 degrees last summer? Yikes. That wasn’t fun for anyone, but it was even worse for people with asthma. 

As climate change continues, you need to prepare for heat and smoke events — and sometimes both at the same time. If you have asthma, that goes double.

Despite the chilly start to the 2022 spring, warm weather is on the way. May is Asthma Awareness Month, which makes this a great time to think about asthma, heat and wildfire smoke as summer approaches.

Heat can trigger asthma symptoms

Many adults and children have asthma, which inflames and narrows your airways. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Wheezing.
  • Chest pain, coughing.
  • Fatigue.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 1.6 million people visit emergency rooms every year for asthma.

Many things can trigger asthma, including seasonal factors like:

  • Heat and moisture keep the air still. That traps pollution that can irritate your airways.
  • Higher pollen counts.
  • Changes in weather. One study found a 10% increase in temperature or moisture led to more asthma-related hospitalizations in children.

How to avoid asthma symptoms in the summer

A few things can help you manage summer asthma. 

First, keep cool! Avoid vigorous exercise or physical activity when it’s hot. Drink water to stay hydrated. 

Monitor air quality. Keep your windows and doors closed. This helps keep pollutants like smoke out of your home. 

If you’re asthmatic, always keep asthma medication like an inhaler with you. This can help you fend off unexpected attacks when you’re outside. 

Asthma and wildfire smoke

Experts have linked climate change to hotter and drier summers, which means more wildfires. Wildfire smoke and ash can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. People with asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are at greater risk for symptoms.

Smoke from wildfires can travel thousands of miles. Conditions and severity can change daily.

Even if you live far from a wildfire, you may experience health problems from the smoke. Stay prepared!

Air quality and sensors

Want to see real-time air quality data?

Our Air Quality program worked with partners to install Microsoft Leaf sensors at 10 Tacoma schools. We teamed with: 

Outdoor air sensor from Microsoft
  • Urban Air Tacoma. 
  • University of Washington-Tacoma.
  • City of Tacoma. 
  • Tacoma Public Schools. 
  • Microsoft Research.

The solar-powered sensors sit outside schools to soak up the sun. They’re custom designed and calibrated at the Microsoft Research hardware lab in Redmond. They take readings at 60-second and 15-minute intervals and give us real-time data!

The sensors measure:

  • Temperature.
  • Humidity.
  • Pressure.
  • PM 1, PM 2.5, and PM 10.
  • Carbon monoxide.
  • Nitrogen dioxide.
  • Sulfur dioxide.
  • Ozone.

The Leaf sensors aren’t the only sensors at area schools. We also use Purple Air sensors, both inside and outside buildings. These sensors measure:

  • Temperature
  • Pressure
  • Humidity
  • PM 1, PM 2.5, and PM 10 

You’ll be able to find them in schools throughout Pierce County. The air quality data will help guide school activities during wildfire smoke season. 

Summers may get smokier and hotter as climate change continues. Now’s the time to prepare! Visit our asthma page for more tips on how to breathe easier. Subscribe to the Your Reliable Source log for our latest info. 

Puget Sound at morning light.