Asthma through the Seasons

One of my biggest asthma triggers is the weather. Obviously this can be very frustrating as it doesn’t matter how well I look after myself and my asthma I can’t control the weather. What I can do though is ensure that if I need to go outside, I am fully prepared, whether that includes a change / increase in medication, extra clothing in cold weather such as a snood or a scarf or whether I just avoid going outside wherever possible if the weather is likely to cause my asthma some problems.

So how and why does the weather effect my asthma, well following a little bit of research, using my own experiences and from what I have been told by my consultant and asthma nurses I will try to explain.

As I have written about previously my biggest problem with the weather is when it changes suddenly or when there are extremes of weather (eg very cold or very windy). Therefore my worst time of year is probably winter, the English winter can vary dramatically from hour to hour, never mind from day to day. We often seem to have 4 seasons 1 day. Other asthmatics struggle more at other times of the year, for those who are effected by allergies, spring time can be particularly troublesome. Other asthmatics struggle more in the summer especially during those rare heat waves which we occasionally have in this country.

So why do asthma symptoms seem to get worse with every change in the weather? Although it seems confusing, there are some annual trends, as well as reasons why asthma symptoms are worse at particular times of the year.

For example, severe asthma episodes tend to peak during the autumn months, especially among children.

However, one study conducted in Detroit found that when there was a rapid 10 degree rise in temperature or a 10% rise in humidity, as can happen in spring and summer, there was a significant increase in hospital admissions, especially amongst children.

Asthma symptoms can flare at any time of year due to typical triggers, such as pet dander, smoke, dust and exercise. But knowing the triggers that can vary by season, such as pollen, temperature, humidity, pollution, and viruses can help people with asthma figure out if they should be stepping up their medication.

Autumn
Cold air can cause an asthmatics lungs to tighten up which will cause them problems but one of the main reasons why asthmatics are worse in the autumn is down to colds and flu which are more common at this time of the year.

People with asthma aren’t particularly any more likely to catch a bug / virus than people without asthma, but when they do, their illness tends to be longer and more severe. Respiratory tract infections aggravate the chronic lung inflammation of asthma, which cause breathing problems and can lead to asthma attacks.

People with asthma are more vulnerable to complications stemming from flu, such as pneumonia and are more likely to be hospitalised. This is why asthmatics are advised to have an annual flu jab.

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Winter
Oh how I hate winter, from late November through until March my lungs struggle continuously, I spend as much time in hospital as I do out of it and I have months on end off sick from work.

Although autumn is the peak time for a flare up of asthma symptoms, winter weather causes many asthmatics major problems. The cold, dry air can aggravate asthma, especially during exercise, when air is inhaled in larger amounts. People with asthma don’t have to be exercising to notice the effect of cold air. For some people, even walking around outside in cold weather can be a trigger and cause asthma symptoms.

If cold air is a trigger the best bit of advise (and is something strongly recommended by Asthma UK)  is to wear a scarf around your face will help warm and humidify the air you breathe. Another option is to wear a snood which is something that I do. In addition to this it is always essential to take your inhalers as normal and also take an extra ‘puff’ a few minutes before going outside into the cold.

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Spring
For asthmatics, spring means one thing above all,  pollen season. Pollen is a potent allergen that, when inhaled, can inflame airways and cause asthma attacks. (Like cold-and-flu season, high pollen counts are associated with an increase in asthma-related hospital visits.)

Pollen is a major seasonal cause of increasing asthma as with cold, dry air in the wintertime, exercising outdoors can make people with asthma especially vulnerable to asthma attacks. Fortunately, pollen concentrations are relatively predictable. Pollen counts are the highest between about 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. every day, so if you are going to be exercising when the pollen count is likely to be high,  you are better off doing it later in the day.

Trees begin to release pollen around March or April (depending on where you live), and just when you are recovering from the tree pollen, grass pollen peaks in May and June.

Although spring lacks the extreme weather of winter and summer, the seasons unpredictable weather can still cause problems, the changes in weather and humidity rather than the levels themselves are responsible for triggering asthma exacerbations.

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Summer
Summer is usually the time of year that I have less asthma symptoms and I can lead a relatively normal life, and I along with many other asthmatics feel far better than we do at other times during the year. The worst of the spring pollen season is over, and cold-and flu season has yet to begin.  Despite this the weather can still cause problems for some asthmatics who can react poorly to heat and humidity,

Summer weather also tends to coincide with poorer air quality, especially in city centres. Traffic related pollution and sunlight can combine to cause asthma triggers.

Thunderstorms, which are more frequent in summer are yet another asthma trigger. The gusty winds that accompany thunderstorms stir up mould and fungal spores, and rainwater breaks up pollen grains into hundreds of microscopic pieces, both of which cause problems for asthmatics. You may recall the storm which caused many asthmatics major problems in Australia just a few months ago.

thunderstorm-asthma

The important thing for any asthmatic is to plan ahead, check the weather forecast, check the pollen count, get a flu jab, dress accordingly, wear a scarf and consider increasing your medication. It is important to try and find out what your triggers are and obviously try to avoid them and take precautions.

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One thought on “Asthma through the Seasons

  1. Being diagnosed in September it was very much trail and error through winter
    Just when I thought I was getting on top of my asthma hayfever season started !
    Wish I’d read this in September so had a heads up on what to expect – but thank you it does help explain when I’ve suffered more than usual with hayfever – I now have new prescription hayfever tablets which are helping
    Can’t wait for a good thunder storm ⛈!! Love to watch but not sure how I’ll react ?

    Liked by 1 person

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