With Spring in the Air, Asthma May Flare
To help you manage this season smoothly, Dr. Vitalpur offers these suggestions.
If you have asthma, you know that it requires year-round management. But springtime can be particularly challenging. Seasonal allergies can cause airways to become inflamed and irritated, which can bring on asthma symptoms. “We do see asthma flare-ups during certain seasons, such as the fall and spring,” says Girish Vitalpur, M.D., pediatric allergist at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. “In the spring, you see a huge release of allergens like pollen, and there are also humidity changes and irritants in the air, such as dust, which can be brought up from people planting.” All of these triggers can make breathing more difficult, especially for someone with asthma. To help you manage this season smoothly, Dr. Vitalpur offers these suggestions.
Make sure you’re taking the right meds
“Not everyone needs to be on daily medications for their asthma—many people with asthma only have intermittent symptoms—but if you know you’re sensitive to spring allergens, this is the time to make sure that your asthma is well controlled,” says Dr. Vitalpur. “For people who typically have springtime flare-ups or are allergic to tree pollens, frequently we’ll have a plan in place where we increase their dose of preventive asthma medications in March to prepare their body for the environmental changes in April and May. We also may start allergy medications early so that patients get them in their systems and don’t experience as many symptoms.” Talk with your doctor about which medications may be appropriate for you this time of year. And keep your rescue inhaler accessible for when symptoms strike.
Be mindful of your outdoor activities
Your allergy and asthma symptoms are likely to increase the more time you spend outdoors. “If you’re outside playing sports a lot or doing significant amounts of yard work, you may be more affected and may need to stay on medications longer,” says Dr. Vitalpur. “If you’re indoors, you may not be as affected by seasonal triggers.” Keep this in mind when considering your plans and lifestyle. For instance, if you know you’re going to be at a baseball game on Saturday, perhaps plan to eat dinner inside that night instead of on the porch, to keep your symptoms to a minimum.
Control your indoor environment
Even if you don’t think you spend a lot of time outdoors, you may unintentionally be bringing outside debris and irritants inside with you. So when entering your house, leave the pollen and dirt you’ve encountered at your front door by taking off your shoes and outer layers. If you have a severe allergy to pollen, you may even want to take a quick shower to keep your home as allergen-free as possible. Also consider using saline eye drops to rinse pollen from your eyes and eyelids where it can accumulate. Of course, remember to keep windows closed, run the air conditioner, and use an air purifier with a HEPA filter. “It’s about being proactive and minimizing your exposure to triggers,” says Dr. Vitalpur.
-- By Rachel Rabkin Peachman