Limit exposure to allergens; taking care of your symptoms of an asthma attack means protecting yourself and saving your family scary trips to the emergency room.
About half of all adults who have asthma are at risk of a dangerous attack because they haven’t taken every precaution.
Taking care of yourself means knowing how to protect yourself and save your friends and family scary trips to the emergency room. Don’t ignore symptoms of an asthma attack creeping up. Do you find yourself wheezing more than twice a week and grabbing your inhaler? Do you wake up with symptoms during the night? Are you avoiding stairs or exercise because you’re short of breath? Those are all signs that you need to take more action.
The most common mistake: ignoring allergies to mold, dust, pollen and dander, which affect about a third of adult asthma patients. Make sure you see an allergist to get tested for symptoms of allergic reaction. Then follow your allergist’s advice.
For example, if you are allergic to dander, you’ll do yourself a big favor if you stop sleeping with a pet — and if you have had serious asthma attacks, you may need to give your pet away. That may be heart-breaking, but an asthma attack can take your life.
If you are allergic to mold, you may need to have your home inspected for mold and remove any lurking in the walls or basement. Household plants often have mold in their soil. On the other hand, English ivy, rubber plants, and peace lilies actually may reduce airborne toxins, including mold.
If you are allergic to dust try to have other people do the dusting and keep your house clean. Use a vacuum cleaner designed to make sure dust doesn’t escape from the bag.
Running an air purifier, especially in your bedroom or an office where you spend lots of time, will help with any airborne allergy.
Remember that certain foods — sulphur in dried apricots, for example — can set you off.
Talk to your doctor about allergy medications. Regular shots with a controlled amount of the allergen can help. Another option may be sublingual immunotherapy, when you take the allergen in the form of a tablet rather than a shot.
Another common mistake: ignoring other triggers. Some people keep a diary of symptoms of an asthma attack for several weeks, and go over a checklist of possible triggers. Whenever you have symptoms, think hard about what seemed to set it off and ask close friends or family if they have any ideas.
Intense exercise, especially in cold, dry air, can trigger an attack. This doesn’t mean you can’t go outdoors all winter. Protect yourself by wearing a balaclava over your mouth, so you’ll be taking in air heated and moistened by your breath.
If you are going through a hard time — a divorce, trouble at work, grief — be aware that strong emotions can be a trigger for some people.
Any kind of smoke can irritate your lungs. Smoking always makes asthma worse, so get help if you need it to quit. Don’t permit smoking in your home or car. Choose smoke-free rooms in hotels. Also steer clear of wood smoke from fires or stoves, incense, or burning candles. Especially stay away from scented candles (and air-fresheners as well).
Highly-chlorinated pools can trigger wheezing and coughing. Gailen Marshall, MD, the editor in chief of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, recommends that asthma patients stick to salt-water swimming. If you do use a pool, shower thoroughly afterward. If chlorine causes you problems, avoid using cleansers with bleach, especially indoors.
Some people react to common pain relievers like aspirin.
Don’t skip immunizations for pneumonia and flu. If you get a flu, your asthma symptoms are also likely to intensify for days or weeks. So get your flu shot in October. If you miss the fall target, it’s still helpful to get a flu shot until March. Asthma suffers run about twice the risk of pneumonia, a bacterial infection. So adults should get a pneumonia shot (called Pneumovax), available year-round, at least once every 10 years. If your asthma has gotten worse and you haven’t had a pneumonia vaccine for five years, consider another one.
June 15, 2017
Janet O’Dell, RN