Asthma in Autumn
How to stay safe in the Autumn season and prepare with your asthma.
Asthma flare-ups can be more common during autumn because the season brings so many external and internal home triggers which affect your asthma. While cold air is a refreshing change of pace from the summer heat, it can also constrict your airways, making it more difficult to breathe. We’re here to explain why your immune system overreacts and how to deal with these seasonal changes.
If you have asthma, you may have noticed that it worsens during certain seasons. For some people, spring, summer, and autumn (fall) may be particularly challenging times of the year. That’s because seasonal allergens may trigger asthmatic symptoms. When you’re allergic to something, your immune system perceives the allergen as an invader, which must be attacked.
In response to the allergen, your immune system produces immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE is an antibody that triggers the release of histamine when allergens activate it. Histamine causes allergic symptoms such as:
- runny, itchy nose
- watery, itchy eyes
People with asthma, this process may also impact their lungs and airways, causing asthmatic symptoms.
Common triggers of seasonal asthma include:
Pollen is a powdery substance produced by seed plants. Pollen can be carried by wind, rafted by water or shuttled around by any manner of creatures, be they bees, beetles, birds or bats, and deposited on the female reproductive part of another flower. Unfortunately for asthmatics, pollen flows through the air, at alll times of the year and can be a common trigger of seasonal asthma.
The most prevalent types of pollen depend upon the growth cycle of outdoor greenery where you live. For example:
- Spring – tree pollen
- Summer – grass pollen
- Late summer – ragweed pollen
- Autumn (fall) – ragweed pollen
Particularly in Australia, and like many other countries, certain seasons can be more prevalant in specific states or cities. For example, Queensland is extremely hot with overwhelming humidity, with daily temperatures being quite high. Melbourne throughout the year, is cold, with dry air and little to no humidity. Although both have seasonal triggering pollens, external factors such as regulated temperature can account for these allergies being more of a “trigger” for asthmatic symptoms. Although we are each acquaintant to the heat or cold differently, if you have severe asthma, this is certaintly, most defeinitly a related factor throughout the seasons.
2. Mold and mildew
Other allergens, such as mold and mildew, can also cause seasonal asthmatic symptoms.
Mold and mildew are both fungi, which proliferate throughout the year. However, certain molds spread more readily in dry, windy weather. Others are more likely to multiply and spread when it is damp and humid.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, allergic reactions to mold are most common during summer and early Autumn (fall).
Mold can proliferate both indoors and outside. Your seasonal exposure to mold may be impacted by weather conditions and lifestyle choices. For example, if you hike in damp, wooded areas during summer of fall, mold may be lurking in and under weeds and logs.
You may also be driven indoors during cold winter weather, exposing you to mold and fungi in the home.
3. Cold weather
Cold, icey weather outside may impact your activities, leaving you more vulnerable to seasonal asthma.
In the winter, you may remain indoors with the windows closed. This can increase your exposure to indoor allergens, such as:
- dust mites
- pet dander
Spending time outside may also trigger asthma. Breathing in cold, dry air can dry out and irritate your airways, causing asthmatic symptoms, depending on the person.
Cold air can also increase production of histamine, the culprit behind allergic attacks. Exercising or walking briskly in cold air may worsen these effects.
4. Hot weather
Summer weather may be hot and dry, or hot and humid. Both types of heat can bring on seasonal asthma.
Breathing in hot, dry air can cause your airways to narrow, causing asthmatic symptoms.
Humid air is saturated with water. This type of air may also cause your airways to narrow and tighten. People with asthma often find it harder to breathe in humid conditions.
Heat of all kinds can increase pollution, by trapping ozone and particulate matter. Stagnant, hazy air can also trigger asthmatic symptoms.
The symptoms of allergic, seasonal asthma include:
- difficulty breathing (shortness of breath)
- wheezing upon exhalation
- chest tightness or pain
If you have seasonal asthma, your doctor can create a treatment plan geared towards prevention and treatment of allergic asthma attacks. The medications used may include a combination of over-the-counter (OTC) solutions, and prescribed drugs:
- Inhaled corticosteroids. Inhaled steroids repress inflammation in your airways. When taken daily, they control allergic asthma by reducing symptoms, and often stopping flare-ups before they start.
- Combination inhaler. Asthma combination inhalers contain corticosteroids, plus long-acting beta agonists that reduce swelling and keep airways open.
- Rescue (quick relief) medications. There are several types of medications that your doctor might prescribe for you to take, if you have an asthma attack. They include inhaled bronchodilators, and when severe, oral corticosteroids.
- OTC medication. OTC medication such as antihistamines can be used to help aid the symptoms of allergic asthma attacks by bringing relief to the airway as a anti-inflammory response to reduce the attack. Depending on the urgency of the attack, antihistamines can be bought in different doses (mg) OTC; make sure to seek medical advice from a pharmacist as doses are specific to age group and weight of the person. This can be used in accordance with other presribed medication.
- Change of diet and regular exercise. The way we eat and workout in order to maintain our body or lifestyle has major impact on our allergies and asthma. In accordance to each season, it may be beneficial to make new routines in order to trigger less attacks. For example if you are prone to asthma symptoms triggered by heat, start exercising at home or at a temperature controlled (cool) gym. You may also find waking up earlier to exercise in cooler temperatures will help this.
- Chinese Medicine. Alongside your western medication, chinese medicine such as acupuncture, neuro acupuncture and chinese medicinal herbs can help to heal and restore your bodies immune response to asthma & allergy triggers. This may not work for all, but can be used as a option in your healing journey.
Identifying seasonal triggers and limiting your exposure to them can help reduce allergic asthma significantly. Some ways to do this include:
- Pollen counts are at their highest at dawn and through the early. morning. Limit outdoor activity, including exercise, as much as possible during that time of day. Try soft stretc
- Keeping your windows closed during the morning may also stop pollen from entering the home.
- Reduce levels of pet dander, pollen, dust, and dust mites in your home by vacuuming rugs, curtains, and soft furniture often. Using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter will help ensure that allergens stay in the bag, rather than getting recirculated out into the room.
- Steam clean your carpeting as often as possible. This helps kill dust mites.
- Wash hard surfaces such as wood and tile floors often.
- Wash bedding, including pillow and mattress protectors, often using hot water.
- Reduce mold in the home by eliminating leaks in your pipes, roof, and walls.
- If cold air is a trigger, keep your mouth and nose covered with a scarf when you’re outside. This will help humidify the air.
- Buying an air purifier for your home or bedroom. (A personal note from tac. Founder, Valentine) “When l first started having severe asthma, l ultimately could not sleep in my bedroom at night, l had allergies every single night, itchy throat, eyes swelling, asthma symptoms, you name it.. sometimes l’d end up in hospital following a major attack which started from nothing. My immune system was a mess. I eventually had to sleep in our spare room before the weeks leading to moving to Melbourne (a colder climate). The weeks leading before our move.. my parents and l went through the stages of medication, doctors, exercise and diet to help my asthma before then looking into our home in hopes of reducing my attacks, creating a more comfortable environment for myself. We were at a loss of finding what could be the trigger within our home as our house was ‘perfectly normal’ (super tidy, no dust, Spoodle dog – allergy friendly, does’nt shed or smell, etc etc). When we finally moved to Melbourne my parents bought me a Dyson Purifier for my room which was temp controlled (hot & cold) but could also ‘clean the air’, rid pollens & dust. This changed my life and my sleep. I had it on everyday for months. I honestly could’nt tell you why it helped but my asthma was so much better, from then on my room was my safe space. If you have severe asthma, buy a dyson. I wish this was an ad lol, but honestly just a pass on message from a person who was a severe asthmatic.. Ofcourse we had an aircon/heater in my home, but this specfic ‘machine’ is targeted to clean the air. Any asthma sufferer will know, the littlest changes, make the biggest difference. And l can promise, this little change is worth the investment. ”
When to call a doctor
If preventive measures and OTC medications aren’t enough to eliminate symptoms, talk with your doctor. They will be able to work with you on finding the right preventive medications and asthma attack treatments.
Call your doctor about seasonal asthma if you:
- need a rescue inhaler daily, or several times a week
- have a cough that won’t go away
- get dizzy, or feel lightheaded
- take medication that’s unable to control shortness of breath or wheezing
Seek urgent medical care if you:
- develop a blue color on your lips and fingernails
- can’t talk or walk at your normal pace without getting winded
- experience rapid breathing
- experience flaring nostrils upon inhalation
Seasonal asthma is also known as allergic asthma. This condition is caused by allergens and other triggers that occur at specific times of the year.
Pollen is one of the most common causes of seasonal asthma. Different types of pollen may be prevalent during the:
- Autum (fall)
Other triggers for seasonal asthma include hot, humid conditions or cold, dry air.