Asthma is no fun. If you are a sufferer, you know that panicked feeling when you reach for your inhaler while you are simultaneously trying to catch your breath.
If you are a parent of a child who has been diagnosed with asthma, the anxiety and fear can be even worse than if you are the sufferer.
According to The Asthma Society of Canada (ASC), asthma is third on the list of leading chronic diseases affecting Canadians today. If you or someone you love has asthma, you are among an estimated 3 million other Canadians, approximately 250,000 of which have the more severe form of chronic asthma.
In this post, learn how changing air quality levels can affect the frequency and severity of asthma attacks and what you can do to take control of the air you breathe.
Patient Study Takeaway: Controlling Asthma Takes a Team Effort
Whether you are the sufferer or someone in your family has been diagnosed with asthma, you already know it takes a team effort to ensure asthma attacks are as infrequent as possible. Perhaps someone in your family has given up bad habits, such as a smoking, so the air will stay cleaner.
But what about when you go into public spaces, such as to work, school, or out to do errands? To address this issue, recently, the ASC commissioned the first-ever in-depth professional study of severe asthma patients to find out what they need most and to make recommendations for employers, governments, professional associations, health care providers and sufferers themselves.
The survey generated a great deal of input from patients, who continually cited the need for expanded asthma health care benefits, more public education to reduce stigma, flexible work conditions when symptoms flare, earlier diagnosis, and less exposure to triggering environments. If you can relate, read on for specific tips to help you lessen your asthma symptoms.
Tip 1: Understand the “4 Seasons of Asthma”
The “4 Seasons of Asthma” refers to how asthma triggers change throughout the year. By understanding this, you can take a proactive approach to steer clear of problem areas.
Here are some examples of how asthma triggers can change from season to season:
- Spring: It is all about avoiding pollen!
- Summer: Humidity, grass pollens, chlorine in swimming pools, summer storms with their changing barometric pressures, and inhaled toxins such as smog are the chief irritants.
- Fall: Hay fever (ragweed season), mould, decaying leaves, and cold and flu season make for a potent cocktail of asthma triggers.
- Winter: Cold air, lack of humidity, dust, and emissions from ice and snow-clearing machinery are all high on the list of irritants to avoid in winter.
Tip 2: Use a HEPA air filter and vacuum cleaner filter bag
Once you have a basic understanding of what might most readily trigger asthma attacks in different seasons, it is time to start reducing your risk. One of the top ways is to switch to HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration. Only HEPA filtration systems can filter out up to 99.97 percent of all airborne toxins.
You can upgrade the air filter in your HVAC system to a HEPA-rated filter. If your vacuum cleaner will accommodate it, you can also upgrade to HEPA-rated vacuum bags and filters. Your new HEPA filters will trap particulate matter, dander, dust, dust mites, toxins, mould, mildew, and other airborne toxins and keep them out of your airways.
Tip 3: Start using a humidifier and/or dehumidifier as the seasons dictate
Summer tends to bring the highest levels of humidity, which can exacerbate the effects of airborne pollens, dust, dander, mould, mildew, dust mites, and other toxins on your sensitive airways. Conversely, winter has a tendency to leach all the humidity out of the air, leaving your airways dry and unable to rid themselves of toxins.
Spring and fall can fluctuate between low and high humidity levels. The recommendation is to keep your indoor air humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent, which Canadian weather patterns can make very challenging indeed! By using a humidifier in dry months and a dehumidifier in humid months, you can regulate your own humidity levels to reduce the chances of an asthma attack.
Tip 4: Make it hard for irritants to get close to you
- Don’t hang your laundry outside to dry, where mould spores and pollen can cling to it.
- Keep falling leaves and debris raked up and prune back flowering trees and bushes before they can bloom, releasing more pollen into the air.
- Use a damp mop and damp rags instead of dry rag dusting and sweeping.
- Do not smoke inside or use chemically scented air fresheners or candles.
- Use natural cleaning products.
- Keep the windows in your home closed and use a heat recovery ventilation system to ventilate your indoor air instead.
- Steer clear of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides in favor of organic gardening.
- Be sure all indoor appliances vent safely to the outdoors and avoid using fuel sources (like wood and kerosene) that release particulate matter into your indoor air.
Tip 5: Have your air ducts and dryer vents professionally cleaned
If you or someone in your family has asthma, you already know all too well that your quality of life literally revolves around having the cleanest possible air to breathe.