Fall is a magical time of year. The leaves are changing colors, the air is cool and crisp and it’s a great time to pick the perfect pumpkin. The fall season can also expose people with asthma or COPD to unexpected triggers that may make their asthma worse. The American Lung Association has some tips to help make your fall activities more asthma friendly.

Tip 1: Consider temperature changes.

As temperatures drop, cooler air can cause problems for anyone with a chronic lung disease. Simply breathing through the nose rather than the mouth, when possible, can help because your nose warms and humidifies incoming air more effectively than the mouth does. Wrapping a scarf around your mouth and nose is another way to warm the air you breathe.

Tip 2: Know your fall allergy triggers.

Leaves: What’s more fun than jumping in and rolling around a just raked, giant pile of colorful, fallen leaves?  If you have asthma, that innocent pile of leaves may trigger your symptoms.  Mold can grow on dead leaves when they become wet and can trigger asthma symptoms. Plus, the dryer, fall temperature makes it easier for mold spores to float in the air.

Wearing a KN95 mask to help you avoid breathing mold spores into your lungs. Wearing gloves, long sleeve shirts and long pants can help to keep mold off your skin. And once you come inside, it is important to remove your clothes and wash them as soon as possible to limit exposure to mold spores in your home. It may also be a good idea to take a shower to remove pollen and mold from your skin.

Ragweed can pollinate well into the fall causing allergy and asthma symptoms long past peak week in August. Hayrides, which are popular in the fall, can trigger symptoms as well. Be sure to take daily controller medicines as directed and always have a quick-relief inhaler available to use at the first sign of symptoms. If your allergies are severe, consider staying inside as much as you can during the day to avoid peak pollination times. Talk to your healthcare team to see if there are any additional measures you can take to control your allergies so you can enjoy the fall season without experiencing asthma symptoms.

Tip 3: Prepare for trips.

Fall is a wonderful time to sleep under the stars, but for those with chronic lung disease camping can be problematic if not properly prepared for. Before leaving for your trip, it is good practice to clean sleeping bags and tents. Depending on how they may have been stored, sleeping bags may contain dust mites which are an asthma trigger. Tents can quickly become dusty inside or moldy from where rain leaked in so keep dry and clean to avoid allergens or triggers.

Those with chronic lung disease should avoid or limit exposure to all smoke including campfire smoke. Campfire smoke can irritate your eyes, throat and lungs. When grilling dinner, toasting marshmallows or warming up next to the fire stand as far away as possible, and position yourself so the wind does not blow the smoke in your face.

Burning leaves can cause other issues. The smoke from burning leaves has tiny particles that contain several pollutants which can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. These tiny particles can cause respiratory infections or trigger an asthma episode. That is why it is normally a best practice to avoid using leaves for your campfire.

Be sure to have a quick-relief inhaler with you at all times and use it at the first sign of worsening symptoms. It may also be a good idea to create an asthma backpack, which contains copies of the Asthma Action Plan and your emergency medication.

Tip 4: Don’t get too scared.

Being scared in haunted houses and running through the neighborhood trick-or-treating are part of Halloween fun, but they can also trigger asthma symptoms. In fact, strong emotions (including laughter) and any type of stress is known to increase symptoms for chronic lung disease patients, so be wary. Make sure you always have a quick-relief inhaler with you and use it at the first sign of worsening symptoms.

Tip 5: For Halloween, wear an asthma-friendly costume.

Costumes and masks may contain latex, a known allergen or asthma trigger. Read the label before purchasing and try to avoid a mask if possible. If you need one, wearing a half-mask is an easy way to make breathing easier. The strong smell from makeup and hair dye can trigger symptoms. Choose unscented, hypoallergenic products or skip them altogether.

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