Don’t Fear Spring Allergies and Asthma
Spring is almost here! The days are getting longer, flowers are starting to bloom, the weather is warming up and … oh, unfortunately asthma and allergy triggers are making their seasonal appearance too.
Pollen is perhaps the most obvious springtime asthma and allergy offender. As flowers, weeds, trees, grass and other plants begin to grow and bloom, they can be a welcoming sign of consistent warm weather to come, but they often mark the arrival of allergy season as they release pollen into the air.
If you're allergic to pollen, you know what happens next—sneezing, sniffles and itchy eyes. Allergic reactions can cause symptoms in your nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or on the skin. Allergies can also trigger symptoms of asthma, making it more difficult to breathe. Allergic asthma is one of the most common types of asthma. And pollen isn't the only spring asthma trigger. Air pollution and temperature changes can also make your symptoms worse.
Tips for managing asthma in spring
But don't fear. Following these tips will help manage your spring allergies and make this season enjoyable!
Check your outdoor air quality every day
If you plan to move your physical activity outside, remember to scope out the environment first and be aware of any obvious triggers. The quality of the air we breathe outdoors affects each of us and can be especially troublesome for people with asthma. Check daily air quality levels and air pollution forecasts in your area. If the forecast is bad for your area, consider staying inside or finding alternative physical activities for that day.
Lawn and garden maintenance
Before working in the yard, check your local pollen count and consider gardening in the early morning or evening when the pollen count is at its lowest. Fertilizers and freshly cut grass can worsen asthma symptoms. When working the yard, consider wearing a particle mask (available at hardware stores) to keep from breathing in tiny particles. If the neighbor just mowed, consider alternative activities. Also, be mindful of pollen exposure when bringing fresh cut seasonal perennial flowers into your home like tulips, lilacs or peonies.
It's a bug's life
Citronella candles and bug spray may keep mosquitoes at bay but can also trigger an asthma episode. It may help to stay several feet away from any strong-smelling candles, and when using mosquito repellent, choose unscented lotions instead of aerosol sprays. Other tips that may help you avoid using repellant products are to:
- Empty flowerpot liners or other containers holding water to repel bugs like mosquitos,
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outside to reduce the need for repellant,
- And stay indoors at sunrise and sunset when mosquitoes are most active.
Use medications as prescribed
While limiting exposure to triggers can be helpful, you can never eliminate contact from all potential items that cause asthma and allergy symptoms. Always be sure to use your preventive or controller medications as prescribed, even if you are feeling well. If you have asthma, remember to keep your quick-relief medicine close at hand in case of a flare-up and ensure you know how to properly use your medications to get the best possible effectiveness – including a spacer.
The American Lung Association's Asthma Basics course is a good way to learn more about asthma and indoor air triggers that you may encounter at home or work.
Other tools that can help guide your outdoor plans include a peak flow meter, a written Asthma Action Plan, and using your quick-relief asthma medicine before activities or exercise if prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Talk with your healthcare provider. Be sure to keep them informed if you begin having trouble controlling your asthma or allergy symptoms during the spring months. Keep track and assess your asthma control. If your asthma flare-ups are frequent during this time period, talk with your asthma care provider about getting tested for common allergens, with a simple blood test or skin prick test. Also, take the My Asthma Control Assessment to determine your overall asthma control.
Allergy testing may help you identify your triggers and take steps towards managing them. Your healthcare provider can help you recognize what makes your asthma worse, and help find simple solutions to reduce and avoid asthma triggers. With your provider's help, you can create a written Asthma Action Plan and/or allergy management plan to help keep you feeling healthy, active, and well-controlled. For more information, visit Lung.org/asthma.
How many control medications do you take to treat your asthma?