Health

Spring Asthma

December 23, 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Kara Mayer Robinson
WebMD Feature

Reviewed by Daniel Brennan, MD

When you have asthma, the much-anticipated coming of spring can come at a price: flare-ups.

“We see a large jump in asthma-related emergency room visits this time of year,” says David Rosenstreich, MD, director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.

There are things you can do to help keep your asthma in check.

Know Your Triggers

What causes your symptoms to spike?

Pollen:

Pollen is the biggest seasonal trigger for flare-ups. Thanks to growing trees, weeds, flowers, and even grass, it’s everywhere in the spring. 

“Seasonal pollens in the spring can result in airway inflammation and worsen underlying asthma,” says Joyce Rabbat, MD, an assistant professor at Loyola Medicine.

“Pollen blows for 50 miles, so you don’t have to have a tree in your backyard to have a problem,” Rosenstreich adds.

Other top triggers:

  • Allergies
  • Pollution
  • Temperature changes

Keep Your Triggers at Bay

Most springtime triggers are outside, so the easiest way to fend off an asthma attack is to stay indoors. That’s not always fun or practical.

These tips can help keep your asthma in check:

  • Stay indoors when pollen levels are high, usually between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. Apps are available to help you determine the pollen count, including one from WedMD.
  • Do you have springtime allergies? If you also have asthma, then allergens can trigger your asthma. Keeping your allergies under control can help.
  • After being outside, take a shower and wash your clothes. “Pollens stick to your body, so if you don’t do this, you’ll transfer pollens inside your home,” Rabbat says.
  • Dry your sheets and clothes indoors. Outdoor clotheslines can leave your laundry coated with pollen.
  • In your home and your car, opt for air conditioning instead of open windows. Set your unit to recirculate so it doesn’t bring in air from outside.
  • Be smart about gardening. If possible, find someone to mow your lawn, fertilize, and do the gardening. If you do it yourself, wear a mask.
  • Track how the weather affects you. It’s common for asthma to flare up on hot, dry, windy days and then calm down when it’s rainy. Take note of when you feel worse, and avoid being outdoors during those conditions.
  • Avoid pollution. Air pollution can trigger asthma and make it harder to breathe. Air pollution isn’t necessarily worse in spring, but more time outdoors means more exposure.
  • Avoid citronella candles and bug sprays. Their scents can trigger asthma flares. Try unscented lotions to ward off bugs.
  • Do your workout indoors. Your doctor may recommend an antihistamine and use of your asthma inhaler before exercise to prevent an attack. If you do exercise outside, take your asthma medications before you go.

Manage Your Asthma (and Allergies) With Meds

Stay ahead of your asthma triggers. If you haven’t been using your asthma medication because you’ve been feeling fine, it might be time to get back on track. Refill your prescriptions, and have quick-relief medicine available for flare-ups.

If you have allergies, make sure you are following that treatment plan as well.

“Your allergist might advise you to start preventive allergy and asthma medications about 2 weeks prior to the season,” Rabbat says. They can make asthma attacks less severe.

If you still are having a lot of flare-ups, talk to your doctor about allergy shots, which help desensitize your body and reduce asthma symptoms.

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