Fluctuating temperatures, an early flowering season and predictions of thunderstorms and bushfires by weather experts this year has prompted Asthma Foundation to warn that this could be a tough time for the 800,000 asthmatics in NSW.
“Unseasonably high temperatures have seen plants flowering early and the Rural Fire Service has started necessary hazard reduction burns early this year, which will challenge the ability of people with asthma to control their condition,” said Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Foundation NSW.
“Asthma is very much an individual condition, which changes with the seasons. Spring is one of the worst times of year for many of the 1:10 adults and children who live with asthma.”
“Right around the world changing weather patterns no longer seem to conform to old seasonal norms. If this is a taste of what’s to come, people with asthma will have to pay even closer attention to managing their condition to make sure they are in control of it, rather than it being in control of them.”
Pollens, for example, are a major concern as plants may now have longer or more than one flowering season. As nature bursts into life and pollens are drawn up into the atmosphere and distributed by wind and thunderstorms, the 80% of asthmatics who also have allergies need to be especially careful. Allergies trigger asthma attacks in 60-90% of children and in 50% of adults.
An allergic reaction occurs when a person’s immune system overreacts to substances found in the environment known as “allergens”. Sneezing and itching are common visible signs. While allergies are unpleasant enough for anyone, for people with asthma they are a particular problem because they can also trigger an asthma attack, causing airways to contract and making it difficult to breathe.
Plant allergens are amongst the most common asthma triggers. Of Americans who are allergic to pollen-producing plants, 75 percent are allergic to ragweed alone.
Literally hundreds of different agents can trigger an allergic reaction or an asthma attack. It can be helpful to know what your asthma triggers are so that you are prepared, but it’s even more important to make sure that you’re on the right medication so that you have the strongest defence when you do encounter one of your triggers.
“If you think you may have allergies, see your GP to talk about options for allergy testing and management,” said Ms Goldman.
“It’s also a very good time to see your GP to get or update your individual asthma action plan.” People with written asthma action plans tend to have better asthma control, fewer attacks and less days off school or work.
If your asthma gets worse during spring here are some practical tips for controlling asthma:
- Ensure you take your preventer medication every day to stop asthma symptoms flaring up during high-risk days. Be especially careful to keep your reliever medication close at hand on windy days or during and after thunder or dust storms, and make sure you use them as soon as you get symptoms. Dust, pollution and pollens all travel on the wind, so your symptoms may worsen on these days.
- On high pollution or high pollen days postpone outdoor exercise.
- When there’s lots of triggers in the air, stay indoors and if you can, use your air conditioner to filter and circulate the air in your home. Don’t open your windows or you will let the pollens or pollution inside, where it will settle all over your home.
- Shower and wash your hair when you come home in the evening. This helps keep pollens and pollution from rubbing off you and onto your bed, where it could exacerbate your asthma all night.
- Those affected by pollens should restrict their outdoor activity, when possible, especially between 10am- 4pm when plants tend to release their spores.
(Source: Asthma Australia)