For the 26 million Americans with asthma, managing the condition in the summer months is considerably more difficult than the rest of the year. While there are many reasons for this, pollen allergies usually top the list of causes. These can trigger asthma symptoms and inflame your airways even more, making the struggle to breathe all the more difficult.
In essence, your already sensitive airways are more likely to react to other triggers, such as dust, mold or pollution. If you are unlucky enough to then catch a cold, the additional inflammation can cause further irritation and breathing complications.
To assist in the run-up to pollen season, we wanted to provide a guide on managing your asthma symptoms this summer.
Control your external environment
There are a number of tips and tricks you can use to avoid a flare-up. Avoiding freshly cut grass will make your breathing easier, for example. However, for those who typically work outside or have a love of gardening, this can be hard to manage. You will never be safe from pollen and mold spores from further afield, but there are actions you can take in your own garden.
If there is no option for paving, decking or using pebbles in your garden, then keep your grass short to prevent pollen-releasing plants. You may wish to hire a gardener to do this if necessary. Additionally, plant flowers that are bright and pollinated by insects; their pollen is hidden, making it harder for you to breathe it in. Typically, these include foxgloves, honeysuckle, lavender, jasmine, sweet William and dahlias.
Plants with small and feathery-looking flowers are typically wind pollinated. They are light and their pollen is more likely to be breathed in. The same can be said of trees or shrubs with long, drooping clusters of flowers without petals.
Manage mold intake
It is widely agreed that mold affects breathing, whether you are an asthma sufferer or not. However, mold can grow beyond the inside of your property – it can also be found on rotting logs and fallen leaves. For children or adults enjoying the outdoors, these spores can be inhaled once the winds pick them up. Whenever outside, if you are particularly suffering from pollen allergies, avoid woodlands – especially towards fall.
Make sure to wear dry clothes when outside too. Pollen and mold spores stick to what you are wearing and can aggravate your breathing. This is also true when you return home, so change your clothes and brush your shoes to try and minimize contact with the spores.
While in summer you are not as likely to be affected by elements like damp weather and fallen leaves, you may still have leaks in your property that can cause damp. Check sinks, refrigerators and washing machines in the kitchen, and be thorough in the bathroom. Try to shower or bathe with a window open and keep your home well ventilated whenever possible – otherwise you will not have a safe space for your breathing during summer months.
Avoid humidity hotspots
Moist air is heavier, making it harder to breathe. Consequently, your body temperature will rise as a result of the extra work you will be doing to get oxygen into the body. This can result in dehydration and quicker breathing – all of which are difficult for an asthma sufferer.
Secondly, humidity lowers the air quality by raising the levels of mold, dust mites and ground-level ozone (a common air pollutant that also irritates the airways and makes it harder to breathe). The most important thing to do is ventilate. Get dry air in and prevent houseplants, long showers and clothes dryers from releasing more moisture into the air.
Consider your external environment as well. If you participate in regular outdoor exercise or walk your dog, for example, the mornings or evenings tend to be lower in humidity. Rearrange your schedule to suit times best matched to your breathing. Bear in mind that a sudden change in temperature can irritate your chest; if you leave a dry, air-conditioned building to enter a hot, humid climate, the difference can trigger an asthma attack.
Check pollen levels
You can also stay aware of the levels of pollen or humidity in your local area by checking weather apps or websites. Keeping a note of the days in the upcoming week that are expected to have a high pollen count will help you plan your routine ahead of time. At night, you can close windows to prevent pollen and mold spores coming in and, if possible, use air conditioning during the day as it cools and dries the air without the added spores.
Try to limit the amount of time you spend outside, especially around green spaces and during the hours of peak pollen levels. However, this is not to say that you should not exercise. Exercise is necessary for a healthy lifestyle, so your fitness regime will either need to occur indoors or at a time when there are little environmental factors that could affect your airways. Your medication should be able to accommodate light exercise throughout this period.
If your current asthma medication does not sustain your activity, then you should contact your doctor or pharmacist. Your condition should be manageable and that includes during the summer months and fitness sessions. Speak to a pharmacist for more information around a solution that you can trial and balance with your lifestyle.
At Medix, our pharmacists stock a variety of solutions that cater to all sufferers of asthma. Whether your condition is aggravated by pollen, mold or anything else, we can assist. Speak to a member of our team today and we will recommend a treatment that, along with following the guidance above, can help keep you protected this summer.