I love the summer. Even with the unpredictability of the British weather, there’s something special about the longer days, and the (sometimes brief) appearance of warm, golden sunshine. The opportunity to spend time outdoors and squeeze more fun into those extra hours of daylight is something I look forward to from the 1st of January, every year.
But whether you’re out enjoying a picnic in the park, walking the dog in the woods or cycling through the countryside, if you’re an asthmatic who also struggles with hay fever, summer can sometimes be challenging too.
And that’s pretty common. Over 80% of people with asthma in the UK also have hay fever, and face the dreaded itchiness, runny eyes and blocked nose that typically go with it. Although some people just shrug these off as being ‘annoying’, these symptoms can unfortunately have far more serious implications if you’re asthmatic.
Why is hay fever a problem for asthmatics?
When grass pollen levels are high, the risk of having an asthma attack can also be increased. According to a survey of over 1,430 people with asthma in UK, 61% think that they are at a higher risk of having an asthma attack as a result of their hay fever.
If you’re allergic to pollen and you breathe it in, histamine and other chemicals are produced. Your body then reacts to these by producing lots of mucus (hence the runny nose) which causes inflammation, often blocking your nose and constricting your airways.
If you have asthma as well, your already inflamed airways may swell up even more and leave you struggling for breath. You’re also more likely to react to other triggers like dust or pollution…and if you catch a cold, the extra inflammation can make symptoms even worse.
In other words, pollen and hay fever can be really bad news for us living with asthma.
So how can we still enjoy the summer?
Over the years, I’ve discovered a few ways to help manage my hay fever symptoms during the summer months:
- Identify which pollen type sets off your hay fever. You can make a note of the month/days when your symptoms are bad and use a pollen calendar (as below) to determine when each pollen type is released.
- Check pollen forecasts. If you live in an urban area, take special care during periods of dry, warm weather when pollen and pollution combine to create smog.
- Take your preventer inhaler as prescribed and carry your reliever inhaler with you at all times. As a runner and cyclist, I always make sure mine is in my back pocket when I head out.
- Take hay fever medication to relieve your symptoms. By treating your hay fever, you’ll not only soothe your itchy, runny eyes and blocked nose, but you might also cut your risk of an asthma attack.
Ask someone else to cut the grass! Avoiding activities that will trigger a flare up will save you trouble in the long run.
Image Credit: Met Office UK
UK/MED/19/0167 July 2019