It's finally spring! The days are getting longer, flowers are starting to bloom, the weather is warming up and … oh, unfortunately asthma and allergy triggers are making their seasonal appearance.
Pollen is perhaps the most obvious springtime asthma and allergy offender. As flowers, weeds, trees, grass and other plants begin to bloom, they release pollen into the air. If you're allergic to pollen, you know what happens next—achoo! Sneezes, sniffles and a strong desire to draw the blinds and stay inside for a couple of months. Allergic reactions can cause symptoms in your nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or on the skin. Allergies can also trigger symptoms of asthma, making it more difficult to breathe. And pollen isn't the only spring allergy and asthma trigger. Air pollution and temperature changes can also make your symptoms worse.
But don't fear. You don't have to trade your spring kickball league for a Netflix account or wear a hazmat suit to venture outdoors. Follow these tips to ensure your spring is every bit as exciting as it is for Potoka the giraffe.
Check your outdoor air quality. Every day. If you plan to move your physical activity outside, remember to scope out the environment first and be aware of any obvious triggers. The quality of the air we breathe outdoors affects each of us and can be especially troublesome for people with asthma. Check daily air quality levels and air pollution forecasts in your area.
Lawn and garden maintenance. Before working in the yard, check your local pollen count and consider gardening in the early morning or evening when the pollen count is at its lowest. Fertilizers and freshly cut grass can worsen asthma symptoms. When working the yard, consider wearing a particle mask (available at hardware stores) to keep from breathing in tiny particles.
It's a bug's life. Citronella candles and bug spray may keep mosquitoes at bay but can also trigger an asthma episode. It may help to stay several feet away from any strong smelling candles, and when using mosquito repellent, choose lotions that are unscented instead of aerosol sprays. Other tips that may help you avoid using repellant products are to empty flower pot liners or other containers holding water, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks when outside, and stay indoors at sunrise and sunset when mosquitoes are most active.
Use medications as prescribed. While limiting exposure to triggers can be helpful, you can never eliminate contact from all potential items that cause asthma and allergy symptoms. Always be sure to use your preventive or controller medications as prescribed, even if you are feeling well. If you have asthma, remember to keep your quick-relief medicine close at hand in case of a flare-up. Other tools that can help guide your outdoor plans include a peak flow meter and a written Asthma Action Plan.
Talk with your healthcare provider. Be sure to keep him or her informed if you begin having trouble controlling your asthma or allergy symptoms during the spring months. If asthma flare-ups are frequent during this time period, talk with your asthma care provider about getting tested for common allergens, with a simple blood test or skin prick test. Allergy testing may help you identify your triggers. Your healthcare provider can help you recognize what makes your asthma worse, and help find simple solutions to reduce and avoid asthma triggers. With your provider's help, you can create an asthma or allergy management plan to help keep you feeling healthy, active and well controlled.