If you’re one of the 26 million women, men, and children in the U.S. who have asthma, you may dread the spring thaw and bloom that others eagerly anticipate. While fresh flowers and greenery are a feast for the eyes, and the warmer weather hints at summer fun to come, temperature changes and pollen are common triggers for an asthma attack.
Dr. Kimberly Bolling, an expert internist in Bowie, Maryland, knows how challenging springtime can be if you have allergies or asthma. She offers a few tips to help you protect yourself from an asthma attack, so you can enjoy the changes the new season brings.
If you’re allergic to pollen, the fresh new grasses, leaves, and flowers of spring can trigger bouts of sneezing, wheezing, and coughing. When you have asthma, any of these symptoms — uncomfortable enough by themselves — can bring on an attack. Dr. Bolling recommends keeping track of the pollen count on the web or with an app, and controlling your exposure to pollen by:
If you’re highly allergic to pollen, you might also consider wearing a disposable paper mask when outdoors. Be sure to use a clean one each day.
Living an active life with plenty of exercise is essential to keeping your body strong and healthy. However, you might find that exercising too strenuously brings on an asthma attack, a condition known as exercise-induced bronchitis (EIB). Often, EIB is triggered by breathing through your mouth instead of through your nose, which warms the air before it hits your lungs.
If you have EIB, consider switching to less strenuous exercises that allow you to breathe easily through your nose, including:
You might be able to tolerate sports where you’re only running or exerting yourself for short bursts of time, such as volleyball or basketball. You can also head off an attack by using a bronchodilator or other asthma medication before you work out.
As the transition between winter and summer, spring comes with variable weather that can sometimes catch you by surprise. Pay attention to the weather report, and dress in layers so you can adjust to changes on the spot. Some weather conditions that are most likely to trigger an asthma attack are:
You can keep track of the weather and plan your activities accordingly by bookmarking and personalizing weather information sites such as Accuweather.
Journaling helps you keep track of your asthma attacks, so you can begin to identify some of your most common triggers. For instance, you may notice that you’re sensitive to certain foods, or that you have an allergy to cats, dogs, or both.
A journal is also a great way to keep track of your emotions and to let off steam when you have a difficult day. Feeling overwhelmed by strong emotions, such as anger or sadness, can cause changes in your breathing that may lead to an asthma attack. Journaling lets you express yourself safely so you can relax, breathe calmly and deeply, and regain your emotional balance.
If you suffer from asthma, you need medication to help keep your airways clear during an attack. You may also benefit from learning how to take medications that prevent an attack from occurring in the first place.
Before getting surprised by spring’s extra respiratory challenges, call us for an asthma consultation. You can also book your appointment with Dr. Bolling online.