The summer has finally started to rear its head and for many people who suffer from respiratory disease the summer months can potentially worsen their condition. An increase in air pollution, pollen, dust and other allergens can irritate the lungs and worsen breathing. The general advice is to stay indoors at peak pollen or air pollution times. However on the flip-side of this advice is that exposure to the sun may actually be good for you, especially asthma sufferers.
A study by King’s College London has found that the Vitamin D that the sun provides may have a calming impact with asthma sufferers as Vitamin D helps to lower an asthmatic’s over-active part of their immune system.
Many asthmatics have high levels of Interleukin-17, which causes part of their immune system to be over-active and contributes to their respiratory reactions to allergens and is part of the cause of some asthma attacks. Some asthmatic sufferers do not respond to steroid treatment and find difficulty in managing their symptoms. This group of asthmatics tends to have very high levels of Interleukin-17.
Researchers have found that if Vitamin D levels are increased then this lowers the levels of Interleukin-17 and helps to calm down the immune system leading to a lessening of symptoms.
“We know people with high levels of vitamin D are better able to control their asthma – that connection is quite striking,” said researcher Prof Catherine Hawrylowicz.
The sun is an easy natural source of Vitamin D (the body can make Vitamin D in the presence of sunshine) rather than taking synthetic supplements so the more you are out in the sun, the more Vitamin D your body will get and the happier your immune system.
Many asthma sufferers also have concerns about the side effects of their medications so if Vitamin D is shown to improve their condition then many may have to rely less on medication and can improve their quality of life.
Researchers have suggested that covering up too much and using too much sun cream has actually contributed to increased asthma rates. Obviously too much sun is bad for you and you should ensure that you protect your skin to avoid sunburn and potential skin cancers.
So there needs to be a balance of going outside and increasing your levels of Vitamin D versus avoiding high pollen counts and sunburn.
Here are a few tips to help you enjoy the summer despite your condition:
• Check the Air Quality Index: Avoid peak times or areas with poor air quality.
• Always Take Your Medication: Whether this is ant-histamines, inhalers, steroids or supplemental oxygen.
• Check the Pollen Count: Try to avoid going out at times where pollen is particularly high.
• Use Air Conditioning Instead of Opening Windows: Open windows will just allow more pollen and allergens into your home or the car.
• Wash regularly: Washing your hair and clothes regularly gets rid of any allergens that may have settled on you.
• Talk to your doctor for advice.