An early flowering season, a high pollen count rising to very high on Monday, temperatures forecast to rise to 28C and an extensive program of hazard reduction burns has prompted Asthma Foundation NSW to issue a general warning to the 800,000 people in NSW who live with asthma.
Fire authorities have warned that winter rains added fuel to grassland regions and now warm temperatures and low rainfall are drying it out, creating an above-normal fire potential for the 2013-14 fire season in NSW. Roughly one-third of NSW is already classed as a High fire risk after almost the whole State recorded a rainfall level below or very much below average during August.
To counter this threat the Rural Fire Service (RFS) has already started an extensive program of hazard reduction burns right across the State producing wood smoke that can trigger asthma symptoms or an attack.
“While wood smoke poses a health risk for asthmatics and people with other lung or respiratory conditions,; the hazard reduction work that the RFS does now is vital to protect property and lives during the warmer months when bushfires are a threat,” said Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Foundation NSW.
The 1:10 adults and children who live with asthma should be aware that exposure to wood smoke could make asthma symptoms worse and trigger a potentially fatal attack.”
‘We should always be mindful that asthma claims the lives of over 400 Australians each year.’
Weather patterns no longer seem to be conforming to old seasonal norms and neither it seems is nature. One of the warmest winters on record has produced a very high pollen count after only a week of spring.
“Scientists have warned that one of the side-effects of global warming may be that plants will have longer or more than one flowering season,” said Ms Goldman.
“Pollens, which are drawn up into the atmosphere and distributed by wind and thunderstorms, are a major concern because 80% of asthmatics also have allergies. 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. Pollen is one of the most common asthma triggers.
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.
“Spring is 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:
- Our number one tip is to ensure you take your preventer medication every day to stop asthma symptoms flaring up during high-risk days. keep your reliever medication close at hand at all times, and make sure you use it as soon as you get symptoms.
- In the event of an air pollution event, such as wood smoke, a dust storm or ozone (created on hot days by traffic fumes and wood smoke from bushfires and hazard reduction burns), consider working from home. Let your employer know how these conditions affect your asthma and try to negotiate a flexible working arrangement.
- 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.
Keep track of pollen levels via the Asthma Foundation NSW website www.asthmaaustralia.org.au
The Department of Environment & Heritage issues air pollution reports twice daily for the Sydney, Illawarra and the Lower Hunter regions, which are updated hourly on http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/aqms/aqi.htm or call 131 555.
The NSW Rural Fire Service has the latest information on hazard reduction burns or bushfires at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au or call 1800 NSW RFS (679 737)
For help managing your asthma this spring call the Asthma Foundation NSW InfoLine FREE on 1800 ASTHMA (278 462) or log onto www.asthmaaustralia.org.au
(Source: Asthma Australia)