Certain environmental triggers can cause a person’s asthma symptoms to flare up. These triggers may include extremely hot or cold temperatures.

Asthma is a condition that affects the lungs. When a person has an asthma flare-up, they may experience wheezing, tightness in their chest, or breathlessness. People may also refer to asthma flare-ups as asthma attacks or episodes.

A person who has asthma may find that their symptoms flare up during hot or cold weather. This may be a result of changes in temperature and humidity.

Read on to learn more about the effects of room temperature and humidity on asthma, how someone with asthma may protect themselves from extreme weather, and when it may be necessary to contact a healthcare professional.

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Changes in room temperature may be a potential trigger for asthma. According to the Allergy and Asthma Network, the best temperature for a person with asthma is generally 68–71º Fahrenheit (F).

Research from 2022 suggests an association between temperature and hospitalizations for asthma in adults. The researchers note that extremes of both hot and cold temperatures could be potential asthma triggers.

Another study from 2022 found that extreme temperatures may decrease lung function in people with asthma. The researchers state that extremely cold temperatures, in particular, may affect lung function. They found the effects of extreme temperatures on people with asthma may last almost 3 days.

Additionally, the researchers cite other studies that suggest heat may increase the level of allergens in the air, which can trigger a person’s asthma. Extreme heat may also dry a person’s airways, potentially causing bronchoconstriction, which is the tightening of the airways.

Similarly, the study authors cite other research that indicates extreme cold may result in a person with asthma experiencing the following:

  • bronchoconstriction
  • increased inflammation in the airways
  • immune system impairments, which may increase a person’s risk of developing respiratory infections
  • airway blockages

Learn more about cold-induced asthma.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America notes that humidity can affect asthma. Humidity is the amount of moisture present in the air.

The organization states that hot, moist air allows allergens to thrive. This may cause a person’s asthma symptoms to flare up. Hot and humid air also increases levels of the following:

Particles from the above may irritate a person’s airways.

The Allergy and Asthma Network states that low humidity levels are better for a person with asthma, alongside temperatures of 68–71ºF.

Learn more about how humidity affects asthma.

According to research from 2023, climate change and extreme weather conditions may increase the likelihood of a person experiencing asthma symptoms. They may also increase the chance of a person dying due to asthma.

The researchers note that children and females may be particularly at risk of adverse effects of asthma due to extreme weather.

Steps to take

People with asthma may help protect themselves from extreme weather in the following ways:

  • taking daily asthma medication as a doctor prescribes
  • ensuring they have enough asthma medication
  • staying indoors on extremely hot or cold days
  • limiting outdoor exercise
  • wearing a scarf over the nose and mouth when outside in the cold
  • using a humidifier in cold weather and a dehumidifier in hot weather
  • washing their hands frequently
  • getting the flu vaccine
  • having an asthma attack plan ready
  • keeping the house cool and dry if dust mites and mold are triggers
  • staying hydrated
  • cleaning and replacing filters in heating and cooling systems
  • monitoring asthma and allergy forecasts every day
  • checking the local air quality index and pollen count before going outside
  • showering after outdoor activities to remove any pollen
  • talking with a healthcare professional about possible treatment adjustments over the summer or winter

Various other environmental triggers may cause an asthma attack, including:

  • pollen
  • air pollution
  • smoke from cigarettes, burning wood, or burning leaves
  • dander and saliva from animals with feathers or fur
  • dust mites
  • cockroaches
  • rodents
  • mold

It is best for a person to speak with a doctor if they or a child in their care begins to experience new asthma symptoms. The American Lung Association (ALA) notes that the sooner a person starts treatment for asthma, the less damage the condition will cause to their lungs over time.

Additionally, the ALA states that a person with asthma needs to see their doctor at least once a year. People may need to speak with a healthcare professional more frequently if they have difficulty managing asthma symptoms even with treatment or if their symptoms are worsening.

A person with asthma should speak with a healthcare professional immediately if they:

  • feel dizzy, faint, or weak
  • have a cough that will not go away
  • experience wheezing when breathing in or out
  • have difficulty doing a routine activity, such as cooking dinner
  • experience wheezing that does not go away within 15 minutes of taking medication

Additionally, people should call 911 immediately if:

  • their lips or nails turn blue
  • they are taking 30 breaths or more per minute
  • their nostrils flare every time they breathe in
  • the skin between the ribs or at the base of the throat looks stretched with every inhale
  • they have difficulty talking or walking at their usual pace

Learn more about how to spot the signs of an asthma attack.

Asthma and allergy resources

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for living with asthma and allergies, visit our dedicated hub.

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Certain room temperatures may affect a person’s asthma. According to the Allergy and Asthma Network, the ideal temperature for people with asthma in the home is around 68–71ºF.

Extremely hot or cold temperatures can cause a person to have an asthma flare-up. People can take certain protective measures to prevent a flare, such as staying indoors during extreme weather, avoiding other asthma triggers, and staying hydrated.

It is best for people to contact a doctor if they think they may have begun experiencing new asthma symptoms or if existing symptoms worsen. People should call 911 if they think someone is experiencing symptoms of a severe asthma attack.