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Alleviate summer breathing problems

Do you have trouble breathing during the summer? There may be more than just heat and humidity to blame. With summer comes extended daylight, more intense sun exposure and stagnation in the atmosphere, causing the air we breathe to become more toxic. That is why so many cities monitor and report the air quality index on a daily basis during the summer months.

Research has proven that air quality affects respiratory health, especially for those who suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other chronic lung diseases. If you have trouble breathing in the summer months, Jermaine Jackson, M.D., a pulmonologist at Piedmont, offers eight tips that can help you breathe easier.

1. Avoid peak heat. Avoid spending extended periods of time outside between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. During the hottest part of the day, pollutants are typically at their worst. Also, avoid exercising outdoors during this time.

2. Avoid pollutants. Monitor the air quality index on a daily basis. This information is reported on the local news as well as posted online. A color-coded system makes it easy to follow.

3. Remain in a cool environment whenever possible. It is easier to breathe in cooler temperatures. However, your indoor environment can aggravate symptoms as well, so keep your home clean to minimize dust and mold exposure, and vacuum often with a high-efficiency particulate arrestance (HEPA) filter, especially if you have pets.

4. Wear a mask. Wear a filtration mask while you garden, mow the lawn or clean indoors. These masks help filter out pollutants and dust particles that aggravate lungs.

5. Maintain air filters. Air and vacuum filters should be changed regularly to ensure they are filtering at their maximum capacities. This is especially important for pet owners because pet dander can circulate through air conditioning units and build up in vacuum filters.

6. Keep bedrooms off-limits to pets. You spend a large chunk of your day in your bed sleeping, so limit allergen exposure by keeping your furry friend out of the bedroom.

7. Stay well-hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to reduce the thickness of mucus in your passageways. This allows air to flow more freely.

8. Understand your triggers. First and foremost, it is important to know your triggers and understand when, where and how they present.

“There are so many things in our environment that can trigger respiratory conditions,” says Dr. Jackson. “Road dust, car exhaust, extreme temperatures, grass and pollens can all trigger unwanted symptoms. The key is to know your triggers, understand them, and use that information to guide your decision-making. A pulmonologist or allergist can also provide testing to determine your triggers and proper treatment methods.”

Learn more about lung health and allergies.

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