Asthma is a chronic breathing condition that causes a person’s airways to tighten. Symptoms of asthma are usually brought on by specific triggers, such as strenuous exercise, pet dander or dust mites.
The changing seasons of the year each bring their own asthma triggers, which can either cause asthma symptoms to flare-up or aggravate existing conditions. Knowing the triggers that come with each season can help asthma sufferers and their families better prepare for each season’s onset of asthma attacks.
Symptoms of asthma differ from person to person, but they usually involve problems with breathing. Early signs of asthma can include any or all of the following:
- Fatigue while exercising
- Frequent coughing, particularly at night
- Shortness of breath
- Sneezing, runny nose, headache and other cold-like symptoms
- Wheezing or coughing after exercising.
Common Seasonal Asthma Triggers
Different asthma triggers become present in the air as the seasons change. If you or someone in your family has asthma, being aware of these triggers and how they affect your symptoms is vital to managing the condition.
- Winter: Common winter asthma triggers include viral illnesses like colds and the flu; dust and mold from holiday decorations; food allergies; cold, dry air; and smoke from indoor fireplaces.
To prevent asthma symptoms from flaring in the winter, keep away from others who may have a cold or the flu. Choose simple holiday decorations and keep them clean. Be cautious of your surroundings.
- Spring: Pollen from trees and grass is the single biggest culprit for producing asthma symptoms in the spring. Other spring triggers involve an increase in mold counts after rainfall; heat and humidity; and dust from air-conditioning filters.
To keep spring asthma triggers at bay, stay inside during hot, windy days in pollen season. Dry clothes in a dryer rather than hanging them outside, where they could pick up pollen. Close windows and run the air conditioner whenever possible. Be sure to keep the air-conditioning filters uncontaminated. Clean the house on a regular basis, reducing dust as much as possible.
- Summer: Summer brings many of the same asthma triggers as spring, along with a few new ones. Pollen and mold are still major problems in the summer. In addition, the severe heat and humidity coupled with smog and poor air quality can make asthma symptoms even worse.
Continue to stay indoors on hot, windy days. Also continue to use an air conditioner, being careful to keep the filters clean. Opt for indoor activities on extremely hot days when air quality is poor.
- Autumn: Pollen from weeds and grass continue to be a problem well into the fall season. The start of the school year also brings its own asthma triggers — dust from books and chalk, illnesses caught from other students, cleaning chemicals and classroom pets can all trigger an asthma attack.
Avoid raking or walking through fallen leaves. Wash your hands frequently to avoid airborne viruses. If you have children, check their classroom for obvious asthma triggers and don’t let them play with fallen leaves.
Reducing Asthma Triggers in Your Home
No matter what the season, you can take steps to reduce asthma triggers in your home. Pet dander is a major asthma trigger, so if you have pets, consider giving them up or keeping them outdoors. If neither option is possible, at least keep them out of bedroom areas, and bathe them regularly.
Use natural cleaning products, such as baking soda and vinegar, instead of harsh commercial cleaners in your home. Run the air conditioner rather than opening windows. Clean your home regularly and eliminate as much clutter as possible, which will help in reducing dust.
During pollen season, wash your bedding in very hot water weekly. Consider washing your hair at night, before bed. As you go through your day, pollen settles in your hair. Washing your hair at night cuts down the possibility of getting pollen on your pillow and breathing it in during the night.
AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP Staff. (2008). Seasonal asthma triggers. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from the Pulmicort Respules Web site: http://www.pulmicortrespules.com/professional/patients-caregivers/seasonal-asthma-triggers.aspxÂ
AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP Staff. (2008). Managing asthma through the seasons. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from the Everyday Kidz Web site: http://www.everydaykidz.com/breathe/asthma-triggers.aspxÂ
Weather Channel Staff. (n.d.). Common allergy triggers. Retrieved April 2, 2010, from the Weather Channel Web site:Â http://www.weather.com/activities/health/allergies/common/index.htmlÂ