Fall Can Be Tough For Asthma Suffers
A new season and new a new school environment can trigger asthma symptoms, so we asked pulmonologist Dr. Cristina Palumbo of Asthma and Allergy Affiliates on the North Shore and for some tips on how to manage and treat asthma this fall.
Know your seasonal triggers. “All asthma patients are different, so it is important to know what triggers your child’s asthma symptoms. For many asthma patients, the change in temperature, allergens and environment during back-to-school time and fall can trigger an increase in mucus production as well as increased inflammation in both the large and small airways of the lungs,” Palumbo says. “Additionally, children in school are exposed to germs that they weren’t around over the summer. Cold and flu germs can cause airway inflammation, leading to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. By identifying triggers and avoiding them, you reduce your chances of an asthma attack. Being proactive with known triggers often results in using less medication.”
Get educated. “There are a lot of valuable online resources available like GetSmartAboutAsthma.com, a website that can help patients and parents understand that asthma is a condition that affects both the large and small airways of the lungs,” she says. “Many people think that inflammation only occurs in the large airways, like the throat, but really the lungs are full of many smaller airways that help get oxygen to the blood and asthma affects those airways as well. Before visiting your doctor next, try to get educated about asthma so you know the appropriate questions to ask.”
Talk to your doctor and bring all medications. “Be sure to talk about how frequently a rescue inhaler is used to manage asthma symptoms,” Palumbo says. “If you are using a rescue inhaler more than twice a week, the asthma is not properly controlled and the doctor may prescribe a daily maintenance treatment to reduce inflammation in the lungs. You should also mention if your asthma symptoms have woken you up at all at night or if you’ve had to stop participating in regular activities because of your asthma symptoms. Bring all of your child’s medications including inhalers and spacers to your doctor’s appointments to make sure you are administering the medications correctly.”
Create an asthma action plan and track inhaler use. “Caregivers should work with a doctor to complete an asthma action plan for their child to make sure that asthma symptoms are managed and tracked both at school and at home,” she says. “By tracking quick-relief inhaler use, it is easier to determine if a child’s asthma is controlled or if they need to be on a daily controller medication. When asthma medicines are taken as the doctor directs, children should be able to take part in any physical activity or sport they choose.”