Spring. After a long, cold winter, most of us look forward to rising temperatures and blooming plants. But if you have asthma, allergies, or both (as about 50% of people with asthma do), the pollen that comes with the season can take a toll.
Pollen allergies can trigger your asthma.
“Seasonal pollens in the spring can result in airway inflammation and worsen underlying asthma,” says Joyce Rabbat, MD, an assistant professor at Loyola Medicine.
“We see a large jump in asthma-related emergency room visits this time of year,” says David Rosenstreich, MD, director of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York.
“Pollen blows for 50 miles, so you don’t have to have a tree in your back yard to have a problem,” Rosenstreich adds.
The best way to fend off an asthma attack is to stay indoors. That’s not always fun or practical.
Here are things you can do to help keep your asthma in check while still enjoying the change in season.
Avoid the outdoors when pollen levels are high, usually between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. There are apps that can tell you the local pollen count, including one from WedMD.
After being outside, take a shower and wash your clothes. “Pollens stick to your body, so if you don’t do this, you’ll transfer pollens inside your home,” Rabbat says.
Dry your sheets and clothes indoors. Outdoor clotheslines can leave your laundry coated with pollen.
In your home and your car, opt for air conditioning instead of open windows. Set your unit to recirculate so it doesn’t bring in air from outside.
When choosing ground cover for your yard, pick something that doesn’t produce much pollen, like Irish moss.
Keep your grass short. If possible, find someone to mow your lawn, fertilize, and do the gardening. If you do it yourself, wear a mask.
Do most of your working out indoors. If you exercise outside, take your asthma medications before you go. An antihistamine and two puffs of your asthma pump before exercise can prevent an asthma attack, Rosenstreich says.
Manage Your Asthma (and Allergies) With Meds
Stay ahead of the pollen. If you haven’t been using your asthma medication because you’ve been feeling fine, get back on track before things start blooming. Refill your prescriptions, and have quick-relief medicine available for flare-ups.
If you have allergies, make sure you are following that treatment plan as well.
“Your allergist might advise you to start preventive allergy and asthma medications about 2 weeks prior to the season,” Rabbat says. They can make asthma attacks less severe.
If you still are having a lot of flare-ups, talk to your doctor about immunotherapy in the form of allergy shots or oral tablets or drops. They can make you less sensitive to your triggers and can reduce asthma symptoms.