About Breathing in Humid Weather

Updated April 17, 2017

According to the University of Maryland, there are no standards to assess difficulty of breathing. Likewise, it is difficult to study the effects of humidity and heat on breathing problems because each person handles weather differently. Someone who lives in Florida will cope with heat differently than someone who is accustomed to a cooler climate. What is certain is that heat and humidity trigger asthma, stress and heat stroke, all of which may lead to shortness of breath.


Asthma is a chronic condition which involves the inflammation of the lungs. University of Maryland Medical Center confirms that humidity is one of the main asthma triggers. One explanation for why humidity triggers asthma attacks is that the humidity increases the prevalence of airborne allergens such as dust mites and moulds. According to Rotech, research confirms that asthma flare-ups are also linked with rainfall, high pressure, high and low temperature and lightning strikes. Asthma sufferers, however, who undergo proper treatment are known to play football in hot weather; therefore, outdoor activity on a hot day is certainly not taboo for everyone.


Hot and humid weather may trigger stress. Both extreme cold and heat stress the entire body. In order to maintain optimal body temperature, your body has to work extra hard to cool off in the heat, and because your body is using more energy to cool off, your body uses up more oxygen, and so shortness of breath may follow.

Stress in the form of emotional disturbances such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression is known to cause shortness of breath. According to author Robert E. Najemy, people with emotional blockage due to anxiety or depression tend to subconsciously hold their breath, so their breathing is tense, shallow and sometimes spasmodic. Emotional stress coupled with the discomfort of hot weather can pave the way for sudden breathing problems.

Heat Stroke

Long exposure to hot, humid weather may result in heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke include headache, dizziness, disorientation, seizure, fatigue, increased heart rate and difficulty breathing. In this case, difficulty of breathing is not a direct outcome of heat exposure but one of the many possible complications which arise due to heat stroke and dehydration.


Elderly individuals and infants are the most vulnerable in hot and humid weather. To avoid conditions brought on by hot weather, you should drink plenty of fluids and wear lightweight clothing. It's important to schedule rigorous activity during cooler times of the day. If the weather service issues an excessive heat warning or advisory, stay indoors as much as possible especially if you suffer from a respiratory or heart condition. Also, eat light meals. Meals high in protein cause the body to produce more heat. Avoid too much sun because sun burn interferes with heat loss.

Environmental factors

To breathe comfortably year round, improve your environment by surrounding yourself with green leafy plants that release more oxygen into the air. Also, if you live in the city, take a break from the smog and relax in the countryside or by the seashore.

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About the Author

Agnes Osinski is a special educator and writing instructor. She has experience teaching middle school, ESL and introductory college courses. Osinski holds a Master of Arts in English literature from Bristol University and completed education coursework at the College of Notre Dame.