Springtime can bring a host of triggers for those of us with asthma. Mold counts usually rise thanks to melting snow, seasonal rain, or both. As plants and trees ramp up to full bloom, pollen counts also rise. Depending on where you live, grass may start to grow again in all its allergy-inducing greenery.
In short: Making it through springtime can be a major challenge for many of us with asthma and allergies.
For those of us who want to go outside and enjoy the nicer weather, we have little choice but to put up with the rising allergen counts as we navigate our way through spring.
Even though we can’t completely escape spring allergens, it’s still possible to find ways to make life a little more manageable. I reached out to my Facebook community to crowdsource ideas. With the help of friends, I put together some suggestions to help all of us breathe a bit easier this season!
Wash, rinse, repeat
My friend Frankie, a 33-year-old from the U.K., had a lot to say about how she prepares in advance for springtime allergies and asthma symptoms. Like many of us, Frankie tends to spend more time outdoors in spring. As someone who lives with allergies and asthma, the season can be a big challenge.
Frankie prepares by washing clothing that has been in storage over winter to avoid residual pollen, mold spores, and dust. It’s pretty common for a spring jacket or raincoat to be due for a wash after a winter of disuse.
In addition to thoroughly washing clothes that have been exposed to dust, pollen, or other allergens, the most common thing I hear from people living with both asthma and seasonal allergies is never to underestimate the importance of a good shower.
Emma, a mother of two and blogger living in the U.K., says she typically takes a shower upon coming home to help rinse off any pollen she might have carried in and prevent it from accumulating in her house. She also recommended keeping windows shut, especially on high pollen days.
Kortney, a food allergy blogger living in Berlin, echoes this sentiment. She recommends taking a shower before bed or after a day outside, and says not to skip washing or at least rinsing your hair to help remove any residual pollen that could be hiding there.
I recently met Tracy of AllergyPhoods.com at The Asthma & Allergy Network’s Asthma Bloggers Summit. In addition to showering after being outdoors, she recommends a thorough bedroom cleaning and washing all bed clothes at least once a week. She also makes a good point to carefully check the ingredients on all detergents and shampoos for any allergy triggers, fragrances, or chemicals that might exacerbate your symptoms.
Dust is an unexpected springtime trigger
Certain allergens are more commonly associated with spring, such as pollen, grass, and mold. Dust doesn’t usually make the list — but perhaps it should.
If you live in a place where snow and ice cover your roads in winter, there’s a good chance that the local road crews use salt, sand, or both to keep driving safer. The resulting sand dust sticks around come springtime. No matter how hard you try, it’s very difficult to avoid this kind of dust outside — and you may even find it following you indoors!
When I asked others with asthma and allergies how they manage dust — both in spring and year-round — I got a few different responses. Kortney recommended dusting and vacuuming every other day to minimize the amount of pollen and dust that can settle in the house.
Both Tracy and Emma said they invested in an air purifier for their homes to help filter dust and other allergens out of the air. Tracy adds that dust mite or allergy-proof pillowcases or mattress covers may also be helpful.
Although I don’t have major seasonal allergies, I do have a dust allergy that affects me year-round and can exacerbate my asthma symptoms. I usually combat this trigger by taking medication during the first few weeks of nicer spring weather, after the snow has melted.
Spring is also an important time to ensure that I’m on the ball with my sinus care, in addition to my lung care.
Always be prepared
Jenny, a friend of mine from high school who is 26, told me her biggest priority when it comes to asthma symptoms and spring: She keeps her rescue medication with her at all times.
It’s a recommendation that Frankie and I share. Frankie always keeps medication on hand to treat symptoms when she’s on-the-go. She also has a personal safety kit that she brings on all her adventures. She replaces the medication in this kit each spring. “At the end of the season I extract [the medication], finish it, [and] start each new season with a fresh one,” Frankie explains.
Always be sure to check the expiration dates on your rescue medication to make sure you’re not relying on a medication that’s too old.
Another great tip: When she’s traveling or in an unfamiliar area, Frankie makes sure to have the address of the nearest emergency department in her phone in case she needs medical care.
Spring can be rough for those of us with asthma and allergies. If you’re struggling, visit your doctor for suggestions and to ensure your symptoms are well-managed. Your doctor may even suggest a change in medications for springtime or offer a recommendation to help you manage your symptoms. The nicer weather of spring can provide a great chance to get outdoors — and you’ll enjoy yourself more if you can breathe easy while you’re out there.
The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for caregivers or the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.
RESP-US-NP-00068 JUNE 2018