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High Humidity Can Cause Breathing Problems, Day And Night

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The humid weather leading into storms is uncomfortable, to say the least. But that stuffy air can also be dangerous, disrupting everything from sleep to breathing.

On days like Monday, lung function can be 10 percent less, which can be serious, for some. Along the Mississippi River, friends Gretchen Hoffman and Katelyn Conard strolled along.

"I usually run this trail, but today I walked it because it's hard to breathe when it's this humid out," Conrad said.

And that's a fact, according to one expert appropriately named Dr. Andrew Stiehm (pronounced "steam").

"As soon as I got exposed to the elements, I retreated to air conditioning as soon as possible." he said.

Dr. Stiehm specializes in sleep and breathing care at Allina Health United Lung & Sleep Clinic in St. Paul.

The air, he says, really is as heavy as it feels.

"If you can imagine breathing very easily, it moves very quickly as opposed to breathing molasses," Dr. Stiehm said. "Humid air is more like molasses, it sticks more."

Healthy people may notice fatigue while exercising. You may have to cut a workout short, but for some with lung conditions like asthma or COPD, these conditions are downright dicey.

"It's harder to breathe," Dr. Stiehm said. "So if you're living on the edge, the air becomes harder to move, and you've been tipped over the edge into poor asthma control."

After the sun sets on a day like Monday, it's sill tough to blow off all that steam.

"In the same way it can effect their daytime breathing, it can affect their nighttime breathing," Dr. Stiehm said.

Hoffman has her own method of coping with the nighttime heat.

"Lots of fans," she said. "I have two fans in my room."

Meanwhile, Conrad has her own strategy.

"I just fill the fridge with cold packs," she said. "Put ice in there, put it on myself before I go to bed."

The two don't have air conditioning in their rooms.

As you prepare to hit the sack, Dr. Stiehm says fans aren't ideal on hot, humid nights. To really sleep well in the moisture, you need constant air coming in, so pumping up the A/C is the best strategy.

He also says to listen to your body and breathing, and if you do have a lung condition, minimize time outdoors and work out indoors as this humidity continues.

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