Do you experience asthma flare-ups during spring?
People who suffer from asthma experience restricted or difficult breathing and are triggered by a range of different things, ranging from dust and mould to smoke, and even exercise. These triggers inflame the airways, causing symptoms like short or shallow breathing, tightness in the chest, coughing, or wheezing.
Each person’s experience of asthma is different, and symptoms can be relatively mild or quite extreme, and may even require hospitalization.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, around one in nine, or just over 11% of the population had asthma in 2017-18. Asthma affects people of all different ages, and while many experience asthma at different times of the year, some people find it particularly difficult to manage during spring.
There are a number of reasons why this time of the year can be troublesome for people with asthma. One of the reasons is that there tends to be a lot more pollen in the air. This pollen comes from trees, weeds and grasses, and for some people can trigger their asthma or cause a flare-up.
The second reason is linked to the weather. Thunderstorms often strike during spring, which causes a change in the atmosphere that can make the pollen problem even worse. This happens when there’s a rise in humidity and air pressure, causing grains of pollen to burst, releasing tiny particles that can be inhaled into the lungs.
With these things in mind, it’s a good idea to have a few tips and tricks under your belt to help you manage your asthma during spring.
Talk to your GP
Asthma is a serious condition, and talking to your doctor about your asthma (or your child's doctor about your child's asthma) should always be your first port of call. One of the things that your doctor will help you with is the creation of an Asthma Action Plan. If you already have an Asthma Action Plan in place, but your symptoms become unexpectedly worse during spring, you may wish to visit your GP and update the Plan.
According to Asthma Australia, to construct an Asthma Action Plan, you should work with your doctor to identify the main two or three signs that your asthma symptoms are getting worse. The Plan will detail which medications you should be taking and when, as well as specific danger signs that signal when you should call an ambulance. Your Capital Chemist Pharmacist can help you use your Plan and manage your medications. You can find out more information about Plans, and access the Asthma Action Plan Library on the Asthma Australia website.
Understand and monitor pollen
While we know that there is more pollen in the air during spring, there are some days that are worse than others. There are a number of organisations that are working towards helping people with asthma and allergies by measuring the /amount of pollen in the air. This is done by capturing the pollen in the air and examining it under a microscope to count the amount of pollen and the number of species.
Download the AusPollen app or visit the website to get a daily report of pollen levels. Once you have this information at hand, you can use it to figure out how you will go about your day to avoid flare-ups. For example, on a day with a particularly high pollen count (or a day that is windy or during a thunderstorm) you might want to visit the gym instead of going for a run outside, or plan a fun indoor activity for your asthmatic child.
Use air conditioning in the car and at home
During spring, and especially on high pollen days, windy days or during thunderstorms, it’s a good idea to close windows and doors and try to restrict the amount of air coming into your car or home from outside. One way to filter the air is to use your air conditioner and set it to ‘recirculate’. This setting ensures that the air is continually being filtered, reducing the number of irritants in the air.
You may also wish to have a HEPA filter fitted. HEPA stands for ‘High-Efficiency Particulate Air’ and these filters work on air conditioners or vacuum cleaners to remove micro-particles. These kinds of filters are tested against a standard, so you can be confident knowing that they are effective in removing fine particles from the air in your home.
Manage your asthma with medication
Part of your Asthma Action Plan with your GP is prescribing medication that will help to manage your symptoms and, where possible, prevent flare-ups. These usually fall into two categories: preventers and relievers.
Preventer medicines are usually inhalers that are taken every day to reduce sensitivity in the airways, reducing inflammation and swelling and drying out any mucus.
Relievers are designed to be taken at the onset of symptoms and are fast-acting. They help to relax the muscles in the airways so that it’s easier to breathe during a flare-up or asthma attack.
Your doctor or pharmacist may also suggest the use of a spacer, which is used with puffer-style inhalers. The spacer goes between the inhaler and your mouth and can make your medication easier or more effective. These can be used by both adults and children.
Your Capital Chemist pharmacist can assist you with your asthma medication. Did you know that nine out of ten people don’t use their asthma inhaler properly? Our pharmacists can help to make sure that your inhaler or puffer technique is correct, and suggest recommendations to improve medication delivery to the lungs. Book in an Asthma Check with your local Capital Chemist pharmacist today.
Another great way to keep track of your asthma medication is by downloading and using the MedAdvisor App to track your scripts and repeats, remind you of dosages and allow quick and easy reorders.
Stay healthy and well
Good general health is always very important, and making an effort to stay healthy during the spring season is a good way to help keep your allergies and asthma under control. Colds and flu act as a trigger for asthma, so it’s certainly worthwhile to practice good hygiene, get plenty of exercise and eat lots of fruits and vegetables to reduce your chances of infection and maintain a healthy immune system. There are a number of studies looking at the relations between asthma and eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables
and with minimally processed foods
. While there’s more research needed in this field, what we do know is that eating a healthy diet and staying active can help us to feel our best.