In retirement, many people in the U.S. decide to move somewhere with warmer temperatures. In fact, the highest proportion of seniors age 65 and over in the U.S. (17%) resides in Florida, where the average temperature is 79.5 degrees and rises to 88 degrees in September. Even if you brave the winters and live further north, the dog days of summer bring warm temperatures to much of the U.S.

These warmer temperatures lend themselves to summer and outdoor fun, not to mention potential health benefits—natural light can boost your mood, improve sleep, and even reduce cancer risks. At the same time, it’s important to be aware of how the heat affects your health, especially as you get older.

Heat and your lung health

September is Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month

Heat can and does affect your lung health. Heat can trigger an asthma attack. It can also cause symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to flare up.

Another lesser-known disease that affects the lungs is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). IPF is a serious, irreversible but treatable lung disease that causes inflammation and/or scarring of the lungs. It is prevalent among older Americans. The scarring in the lungs causes symptoms such as shortness of breath and a dry cough, and also makes it difficult for the lungs to deliver oxygen to the blood.

In fact, as the summer is winding down, it’s an even more important time to talk about IPF, as September is Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month.

Tips for lung health in the summer

So, while temperatures are rising, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind to stay cool and safe this summer, while also preserving your lung health:

  1. Go Green: Minimize exposure to outdoor pollution by avoiding congested areas in the summer since ozone and pollutants can make spending time outdoors unhealthy.
  2. Exercise Indoors: Continue your exercise regimen inside to avoid heat exhaustion. Your lungs will thank you as they are working harder during your workout!
  3. Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of liquids before you feel thirsty. Keep options, such as Gatorade around, to avoid electrolyte imbalance.
  4. Choose The Right Products: When gardening and doing other housework outside, choose safe products and wear a mask if needed. Avoid oil-based paints and cleaning products that contain ammonia and bleach.
  5. Breathe Easier: Know the warning signs for more serious diseases and see a doctor.

Don’t ignore persistent symptoms

Many lung diseases can present with cough and shortness of breath

If you have a long-term cough or trouble breathing with little to no physical exertion, check with your doctor. It could be more than the heat and could be more serious than you think. Many lung diseases, including IPF, can present with cough and shortness of breath. The earlier an accurate diagnosis is made, the sooner your doctor can decide what can be done to help your lung condition.

It’s always important to be aware of how our environment impacts our health, so make sure to keep your lung health in mind this summer.

Marilyn Glassberg Csete M.D.
Dr. Marilyn Glassberg Csete is a professor of medicine, surgery, and pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Dr. Glassberg studies and treats interstitial lung disease – ailments in which air sacs thicken and limit gas exchange –most notably pulmonary fibrosis and lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a rare disease affecting young women. She was awarded the National Library of Medicine Award in 2003 for her achievements. As a result of Dr. Glassberg’s dedication to patient care and research, in 2010, the University of Miami Health System–UHealth was selected to be one of only 15 sites in the country to open a clinic for patients with LAM. Most recently, she was awarded the Dines Named Visiting Professorship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, for her seminal studies in cell–based therapies in chronic lung disease.


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