Prepare for peak asthma season with these tips from a respirologist

This article appeared in the September 2022 issue of The Link. To receive Oak Valley Health’s community newsletter, subscribe now.

Many people associate asthma attacks with strenuous activity and air at extremes of temperature or humidity. However, the change of season also affects many people who have asthma. Canadian research has found that September is a peak season for Asthma, especially in kids.

“Every season has its triggers and these affect different asthmatics differently,” says Dr. Althea Burrell, a Respirologist at Oak Valley Health’s Markham Stouffville Hospital’s Asthma Education Centre.

“For some people, their symptoms worsen in the spring time due to allergy season; others feel it the most during autumn when the leaves fall, or in winter with influenza and other viruses circulating.”

Dr. Burrell has been at Markham Stouffville Hospital since 2012, and treats patients with more severe asthma. “I look after all kinds of people, many with serious lung diseases. We treat everything – asthma, COPD, pulmonary fibrosis, and sleep ventilation disorders. “

One key recommendation that Dr. Burrell tells all her patients is the importance of monitoring yourself, or your children, to know exactly what causes flares up of asthma. “If you know that seasonal change affects your asthma, then it’s much easier to prevent a flare up if you prepare ahead of time. You can prepare with more medication and being mindful of your environment, for example if there is a high pollution day predicted, try to stay inside or wear a mask when you’re out.”

Dr. Burell
Dr. Althea Burrell, a Respirologist at Oak Valley Health’s Markham Stouffville Hospital’s Asthma Education Centre.

Dr. Burrell shares some key tips to keep in mind:

Avoid smoke and air pollution

For those who have asthma, any type of smoke can be very harmful. Cigarette smoking, vaping, large bonfires, wild fires etc. all have a big impact and trigger people’s asthma. If you can avoid smoke as much as possible, this will help keep your asthma under control. Stay inside if the air quality is low.

Monitor your triggers

It is very important to know what triggers your asthma so that you can help prevent those situations, or better control them. It is important for parents of children with asthma to keep a close eye on factors that trigger asthma attacks or symptoms. Animals such as cats or dogs may affect young children and it is recommended to have air filters for their bedrooms. Seasonal allergies can be a problem, as can vigorous exercise and respiratory infections.

Review your medications

Although medications aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when we think of triggers, some people may be more sensitive to certain medications such as aspirin, which can cause allergic asthma – similar to what many people experience when they have seasonal asthma triggers.

Dr. Burrell also notes the importance of having regular checkups with your family physician if you are experiencing asthma symptoms often. They may refer you to a specialist to help with medication such as puffers or antihistamines.

Read more about Oak Valley Health’s Asthma Education Centre, and how to be referred.

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