The sudden return of the heat, a change in routine and the complication of hayfever can make summer miserable for asthmatics. But with a few careful steps of precaution, you can start to love the holiday season again. Boots phramcist, Angela Chalmers, explains how.
Why might my asthma be worse at this time of year?
Like a bucket and a spade, an ice cream and a flake, asthma and hayfever sadly tend to go hand in hand, with many asthmatics also experiencing hayfever symptoms–and more so than ever in the summer months when the pollen's high.
"What many people might not realise is that hayfever is actually one of the main triggers for asthma, whether you usually have asthma just seasonally or all-year around" says Angela. "The reason is that the membrane in our lungs is very closely connected to the membrane in our nose. So when our nose gets inflamed with hayfever, that has a knock-on effect on our lungs, making us feel more wheezy.
"And vice versa–if you have chronic asthma, you're more likely to also get inflamed sinuses.
"The hot weather we get in summer can also make a difference. For if it's warm and windy, the pollen will be blown around a lot more, generally making your hayfever symptoms worse than on a more still day. And the heat can make asthmatics more short of breath too. On the other hand, some people find damp, wet days makes their asthma worse."
What's suddenly brought on my hayfever symptoms?
Although many asthmatics are likely to have hayfever too, for some people, it can be a while until a hayfever attack actually springs up.
"Some people can go many, many years without getting an attack and then suddenly one year it hits and you’ll be really wheezy" Angela says.
"There's lots of different factors that can affect how bad your hayfever symptoms are, including the pollen count that year. If you've moved house to a new area you may find your symtpoms have changed, especially if you're now in a big city where the air pollution is high- as this is linked to the pollen count. Even planting different flowers in your garden could make a difference. So have a think about anything that might have changed this year."
While June and July is the most common time for hayfever as this is when the pollen that most people are allergic to is high, not everyone will neccessary experience hayfever at this time. "Some people find they experience symptoms in September time as this is when mould spores- which also cause a type of hayfever- are released. Early in the year, wheat and tree pollen can also have you struggling with sneezes and watery eyes."
What can I do to manage my asthma and hayfever over summer?
"The thing with hayfever, whether you’ve got asthma or not, is that prevention is always better than the cure" says Angela. "So if you can prevent a hayfever attack that’s much easier than trying to calm one down- which can take up to two weeks in some cases." Try out these top tips to keep in control this summer:
- Medication matters- Go and see your pharmacist as soon as possible and explain to them that you have asthma, along with the type of hayfever symptoms you typically suffer. They can then make a tailor-made solution for you, whether that’s just eye drops, a nasal spray or a prescription of tablets. And by starting that early you can actually prevent yourself from having a really miserable summer. Be sure to get a review of your medication every time you visit the doctor or nurse too- not just on your yearly check-up. This makes sure you're getting the right stuff to treat your symptoms.
- Get your technique right–Make sure you're using your inhaler right by speaking to your pharmacist who can show you how to get the best of it.
- Prepare for pollen–When you’re due to go outside, make sure you’ve taken your medication in advance. Then put Vaseline around your nose and the outside of your eyes to detract pollen and wear wide-brimmed sunglasses, especially if you get bad, streaming eyes.
- Don't let it cling–Pollen's a pest and it has a habit of hanging around on us too. This means if you go home after a day in the sun and take off your clothes in the bedroom, you'll generally spread the pollen that's on your clothes all over your bedroom, giving you the sneezes for the rest of the night. So to stop this, get undressed in the bathroom or the utility room. Even have a shower to get it off your hair.
- Pet precuations– Our pets can carry a lot of pollen into the house, so before they come in, give them a quick wash down or even just brush them to help get some of the pollen off.
- Keep it shut– Although it may be hot and stuffy at this time of year, try not to open your bedroom window at night. This is because you get a "pollen shower" in the evenings where all the pollen falls back to the earth making your hayfever worse.
- Love daytime plans- As the pollen rises into the atmopshere in the morning and falls at night, the best time of day to go out is the middle of the day when the pollen count is at its lowest
How about if I'm on holiday abroad?
- If you're going away, double check you’ve got enough in your inhaler. If you're unsure, it won't do any harm to get a prescription in and just get some standby inhalers.
- Asthmatics who are prone to getting very bad attacks, will also need to see their GP as they may need to be prescribed a standby steroid course, but that’s usually for asthmatics who’ve perhaps had that before.
- Find out where your nearest English speaking pharmacy is because you might need antihistamines or need to see a doctor if your asthma gets really bad.
My grandson or granddaughter has asthma- what can I do to help them?
"If you usually go into the pharmacy to pick up your grandchildren's inhaler for them, ask the pharmacist to show you how your grandchild should use it. Because children often can't co-ordinate inhalers, they tend to use spacers to help them, so find out how this works."
- There's more health advice in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.