Stay well with asthma this spring
Spring is the season where the weather warms, flowers begin to bloom and there’s an overall sense of new beginning in the air. However, for many people in Australia, spring (or the dry season in tropical areas) can be a difficult time. This is particularly so for people with asthma and/or allergies as during spring there is often an increased amount of pollen in the air which may trigger hay fever symptoms or an asthma flare-up or attack.
Did you know that approximately 80% of people that have asthma also have allergies… view some statistics here.
Good asthma management year-round is the key to ensuring you are ready for spring.
What can impact your asthma over spring?
During spring, there are many common triggers that can bring on asthma and allergy symptoms and result in asthma flare-ups and attacks. Asthma is complex and different for everyone, but no one knows your body better than you. Consider last year’s spring or dry season, how was your asthma or allergies during this time?
- Would you say your asthma was well controlled, partially or poorly controlled?
- Did you experience a lot of allergy symptoms?
- How much did your asthma and allergies impact your daily life, including sleep?
Unfortunately, there is not one golden solution but if you can treat your allergies and your asthma together, it can result in good outcomes.
Triggers in spring
It is important to understand the triggers in order to prevent and treat the symptoms.
Hay fever is an allergic reaction to allergens, or triggers, breathed in through the nose. This causes an immune response in the lining of the nose where the nasal passages become red, swollen and sensitive, and can become blocked or runny with mucus. While hay fever can occur at any time of the year, many people associate it with spring when airborne pollens are at their peak. To understand all the symptoms of hay fever, click on the link to our Hay Fever page or read more on asthma and allergies here.
When the weather is warming up, people start getting outdoors and participating in outdoor activities. Asthma shouldn’t stop you from being physically active and is an important part of a good asthma management routine. However, exercise can also be a trigger for some people with asthma, but it does not have to be.
Throughout winter pet hair gets thicker for most animals and when the weather starts to get warmer, it is common for pets to shed the excess hair. However, often people assume their asthma is triggered by animal hair, but if pets are a trigger for you, you may be allergic to proteins found in the animal’s flakes of skin also known as pet dander, additionally, asthma and allergy symptoms come from pet saliva, urine or even fine particles from bird feathers known as ‘feather dust’.
Pollen and Grasses
Pollen from trees and grasses are a common trigger for people with asthma that can worsen or flare-up asthma and hay-fever symptoms.
For many people in Australia with asthma or hay-fever, August to March and with some grasses up to May, (or the dry season in tropical areas) is a challenging time.
Are you an avid gardener who needs to hang up the gloves when pollen season comes around? We know for many gardeners with asthma or hay fever, plants and gardens can bring about endless sneezing, itchy eyes, congestion, scratchy throats, or asthma flare-ups.
Spring is one of the more ideal times for planting and tidying up of gardens, however, gardens can harbor allergens that can trigger asthma, hay fever, and allergy symptoms. Not all people with asthma are allergic or sensitive to the allergens, pollens, and fragrances of all gardens.
It is important people with asthma talk to their health professionals to investigate what their sensitivities are.
Read some low allergenic gardening tips
Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma events don’t occur every year but when they do, they can happen during the grass pollen season in south-east Australia.
Thunderstorm asthma events are thought to be triggered by an uncommon combination of high grass pollen levels and a certain type of thunderstorm, resulting in people sensitive to pollen being heavily exposed to high concentrations of this trigger.
People at risk of acute asthma flare-ups triggered by a thunderstorm include those with
- seasonal hay fever (with or without asthma)
- asthma (or a history of asthma)
- undiagnosed asthma
Appropriate treatment of both asthma and hay fever is imperative to reduce the risk of thunderstorm asthma.
The chemical scent from spring cleaning (and COVID-19 cleaning)
We will also have information this spring on household and workplace cleaning products, vastly due to the increased amount of cleaning we are all doing as part of COVID-19 hygiene practices. You may be interested in reading our media story on this topic here.
HOW ELSE CAN YOU PREPARE FOR SPRING?
Take the Asthma Control Test
Poor asthma control (frequent symptoms and/or flare-ups) is a common problem in both adults and children. People with poor asthma control are at a higher risk of flare-ups and significant complications.
If you have experienced any of the following in the last four weeks, it indicates your asthma may not be under control.
- daytime asthma symptoms more than 2 days per week
- need for reliever more than 2 days per week
- any limitation on activities due to asthma symptoms
- any asthma symptoms during the night or on waking
Take the Asthma Control Test (12+) to get your Asthma Score.
Visit your doctor for an Asthma Review
Asthma isn’t something you have to deal with on your own. Your doctor and other health professionals can help you get good asthma control, so you can live a full and active life.
Visit your doctor every six – 12 months for an asthma review. With your doctor:
- assess your current level of asthma control , bring them your Asthma Control Score
- make sure you are on the right medicines to manage your asthma and hay fever (e.g. a preventer for asthma and an appropriate nasal spray for your nose)
- check your inhaler technique
- ensure your written Asthma Action Plan is up-to-date
- ask about your asthma and hay fever, your treatment for both and how to stay healthy during spring
Get a written Asthma Action Plan
A written Asthma Action Plan is something developed with a doctor to help provide clear instructions on what to do when experiencing asthma symptoms or during an asthma flare-up. It should include instructions about managing asthma alongside identified triggers.
With your doctor, develop or update your written Asthma Action Plan. Follow a written Asthma Action Plan for:
- better controlled asthma
- fewer asthma flare-ups
- fewer days off work or school
- reduced reliever medication use
- fewer hospital visits
Preventer – every day, even when well
Preventers work to reduce the inflammation in the airways. Regular use of your preventer makes the airways less sensitive, which reduces the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms (reducing the need for your reliever medication) and the risk of future flare-ups.
Daily use of a preventer is key to keeping well.
Check your device technique
Up to 90 percent of people are thought to use their inhalers incorrectly, which means the dose of medicine isn’t getting into the lungs where it’s needed. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to check you are using your inhaler medication device correctly.
Watch our series of instructional videos showing how to correctly use a variety of asthma medication devices.
Learn the steps of Asthma First Aid
It is important that you know the basic Asthma First Aid steps that are safe for children and adults, not only so you can manage your own asthma flare-up or emergency but also assist others.
Check out our blog for some great spring asthma reading
We update our blog page frequently with really rich and insightful content. Grab a cuppa, find a nice sunny spot in the house to read other ways you can stay well with asthma this spring.
Still have more questions about spring asthma?
Speak to an Asthma Educator today by calling 1800 ASTHMA | 1800 278 462
They operate 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday to Friday, alternatively, you can book a call here and we’ll have someone call you back as soon as possible during business hours.
Share your asthma story
We know there are a diverse range of issues affecting people with asthma and their loved ones. That’s why your voice matters.
Our Asthma Champions help us shine a light on the challenges people with asthma face. Share your story here.
Flo and Stallergenes Greer are campaign partners of Asthma Australia and have not been involved in the development of this webpage.