After the year we have all had, we can all do with a little celebrating and although we don’t want to hinder any fun planned, we do urge you to not become complacent when it comes to your asthma management over the holidays. This time of year, we tend to rush around ahead of Christmas, but make sure you keep in mind potential asthma triggers to avoid your holiday fun turning into an asthma flare-up.
1. Cleaning products: You may be preparing your home for Christmas house guests and this may involve more cleaning than usual. Be aware cleaning products can trigger asthma in some people and cause irritation of the airways. Try switching from sprays to wipes and choose allergy-friendly products where appropriate. Read more here.
2. Medications: The holidays can mean changes to your routine, but it’s important to continue to take your preventer medication as prescribed. Remember to also make sure you have enough preventer medication if you are travelling during the holidays. Although pharmacies do not usually close over Christmas, their hours may be different, and you don’t want to be caught out needing medication when on the road or visiting family and friends.
3. Dust: Still pulling out decorations from boxes? Be careful of the dust that could have built up over the last 12 months in storage. If dust is a trigger for you, have someone else bring them in and clean them for you, leave the room while this is being done or be cautious when wiping them with a damp cloth. Keep your reliever close by if this is the case. Read more about dust as a trigger here.
4. Cigarette smoke: Smoking is not advisable for anyone with a lung condition, including the 1 in 9 Australians with asthma. But if you are hosting or attending an event where people are smoking be sure to have your medication on hand and do your best to avoid the smoke. Let your family and friends know that cigarette smoke is a trigger for your asthma.
5. Viruses: Summer colds and viruses are just a pain, especially so in the time of COVID-19. If you or any of your family have any symptoms, get tested and stay at home. For people with asthma, colds and viruses can trigger asthma flare ups, ensure you follow your written Asthma Action Plan which should include what to do when you are unwell.
6. Stress: As much as Christmas can be a joy, it can also be jam-packed. Activities, social get-togethers, and last-minute plans can add to some people’s stress levels. Be aware and mindful – and be prepared with your asthma management – if stress is a trigger for you. Read more on Asthma and Anxiety here
7. Pets and animals: You might be around the house more in the holidays, together with your pets, or visiting people with furry friends. Animals can shed more in summer and this can be a trigger for some people with allergies and asthma. We know how closely allergies and asthma are linked and asthma is better controlled when you have a management plan for both. It is not just pet hair that is the issue, it is pet dander, so if you are visiting somewhere new, and they have animals, let them know animals can trigger your asthma and ensure you take your reliever just in case.
8. Allergies: Glazed ham, red wine, dried fruits. All delicious Christmas fare, but all potentially containing sulphites. The Australian Asthma Handbook by the National Asthma Council of Australia estimates 10 per cent of people with asthma have a sensitivity to sulphites, and this has been associated with acute asthma. Make sure you know your asthma triggers and what to avoid.
9. Alcohol: Christmas and the holiday period can be a time of indulgence but be mindful that for some people, alcohol is a trigger for asthma. Stay healthy and safe and stick to the recommended limits or avoid alcoholic drinks if you know they can impact your asthma.
10. Mould and pollen: Real Christmas trees can create a beautiful atmosphere, not only do they have a strong scent, but they can also introduce mould and pollens to your home. Vegetation brought inside, such as wreathes, plants or cut flowers, can trigger asthma. Consider your choice of decorations this Christmas period.
11. Smoke: We hope this year will not repeat the devastation of the 2019/2020 bushfires. Many people around the country were impacted by smoke last year. If there are hazard reduction burns or poor air quality near you, stay indoors and avoid smoke as much as possible. Learn more about poor air quality here.
12. Emotions: Christmas can be a time for laughter and joy but can also be a very emotional time, particularly for loved ones who haven’t seen each other for extended periods of time due to COVID-19 restrictions, or who may be currently isolating. Anxiety and heightened levels of emotion can bring on an asthma. It could be laughing a lot, or it could be feelings of anxiety that trigger asthma. Talk to your friends and family or seek help from a health professional. Read more about emotional triggers here
From ensuring you take you preventer even when feeling well, to remembering to take your reliever medication on a trip away, keep in mind some of these triggers. If you are unsure if any of the above are triggers for you, speak with your doctor for an asthma review and consider allergy testing. It is also extremely important to have an up-to-date written Asthma Action Plan, so you can live freely of the holidays.
echamber and Flo are campaign partners of Asthma Australia and have not been involved in the development of this web page/content.