Does Altitude Affect Asthma?

Last Editorial Review: 1/11/2018

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Does climate and/or altitude affect asthma?

Doctor's response

In general climate and altitude do not affect asthmatics who are in stable condition and whose symptoms are well controlled. Relocating seldom improves asthma. Some people find temporary relief from local pollen allergies but allergy symptoms soon crop up with the new environmental allergens. A person might find relief from asthma symptoms triggered by cold air or big city pollution but the new environment will likely bring different triggers. New forms of treatment focusing on good asthma control, however, can reduce symptoms without uprooting a family.

Altitude likewise has little effect on stable asthmatics. If the asthma is so severe that the person's blood oxygen is low (very unusual except during an acute attack), being at altitude or on an air flight would further reduce the blood oxygen level. The dry and often cool conditions experienced at significant altitude might trigger asthma symptoms. Humid air is more ideal for keeping the airways moist. Even the effects of dry, cool air, however, can be prevented by keeping the asthmatic condition under good control.

Thank you for your question.

Medical Author: Alan Szeftel, M.D.
Medical Editor: William Shiel, MD, FACP, FACR