Mind & Body
Don’t Take a Holiday from Asthma Management
12/1/2020 1:00:00 PM

Holiday festivities can give asthma sufferers a reason to say Bah Humbug. From bringing dusty ornaments down from the attic, to burning heavily-scented candles, there are many triggers that can cause problems. People with asthma can’t take a holiday from keeping symptoms under control.


"Identifying triggers helps,” says Jody George, MD, family medicine physician with The Family Care Center of SWLA and medical staff member of West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital. "It’s helpful to know what could bring on an asthma attack. During the holidays, there are many activities and home décor additions that are not part of our everyday routines. It can be easy to forget to take proper care when dealing with asthma.”


Asthma triggers are plentiful and can flare up from a variety of situations:


Home

  • If you choose a live tree for the holidays, let it dry out in the garage or enclosed porch. If you buy from a vendor that offers to put it in a shaking machine before taking it home, do that. It will help remove loose needles and also helps get rid of allergens on the tree.
  • When using an artificial tree, take it outside to make sure it is dust-free before assembling it inside.  
  • Limit or eliminate heavily scented candles and potpourri. Some air fresheners can also cause discomfort for people with asthma.  
  • Keep in mind that glass, metal or plastic decorations can be easily washed each season before using, to get rid of any dust mites, mold or allergens. Store them in a plastic bin to help reduce dust.  
  • Smoke from fireplaces may aggravate asthma. Keep firewood outside until it’s time to use it. Logs carry allergens that can aggravate symptoms.  


Travel

  • Take your own pillow and pillowcase while traveling. You may consider also taking your own blanket.  
  • If you plan to visit a home with pets, take your medication before arriving to minimize a possible reaction. Inform your hosts that you have asthma; they will likely do what they can to make your stay as comfortable as possible.


Outdoors

  • Raking leaves and doing outdoor work, especially in the damp weather of fall and winter, can cause symptoms to flare up. If possible, delegate those chores to another family member who does not suffer from asthma. If that is not an option, choose a day that is clear and sunny.  
  • Cold weather can aggravate symptoms. On especially cold days, some people find it helpful to wear a scarf to warm and humidify the air before it enters the lungs.
  • Paying attention to symptoms is the best way to ward off an asthma attack before it starts.  
  • "One of the most useful tools in controlling asthma is a peak flow meter, which measures the speed of someone’s exhalation” says Dr. George. During an asthma attack, the muscles of the upper airways contract. This makes it harder for the lungs to take in and release air. It is this narrowing of the airways that causes the characteristic wheezing sound of an asthmatic episode. However, this narrowing does not occur suddenly, but rather builds up gradually over time. 

"In other words, the airways may begin to narrow before you feel the first symptoms of asthma, which could be hours or even days before. A drop in your normal peak flow measurement signals the need for asthma medication in order to prevent an asthmatic episode. Utilizing a peak flow meter can help you stay on top of your symptoms,” Dr. George says. Check daily peak flows first thing every morning.  

To successfully manage asthma symptoms, know what triggers an attack, utilize monitoring devices such as the peak flow meter, take medications as prescribed, and work with a qualified physician on a treatment plan that works for you. Enjoying the holidays is easier with a little pre-planning and preventive action.

Posted by: Christine Fisher | Submit comment | Tell a friend

Categories: Health

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