Asthma and Pollen Triggers
Pollen: Why does it trigger asthma?
Pollen is an allergen. It exists all around us but can cause a reaction in some people. Typically, we'd say that these people have 'hay fever' - an allergic reaction to the pollen in grass, trees or flowers.
If you're asthmatic, the pollen can trigger an allergic reaction that leads to asthma symptoms. Your body produces a hormone called histamine, in response to an allergen. This histamine can lead to your airways swelling, reducing the flow of air.
Why does pollen affect my asthma?
When the pollen irritates your body, it leads to the production of histamine. If you're asthmatic, this can cause your airways to swell. It may lead to asthma symptoms including breathlessness, a tight chest, wheezing and coughing.
Many people have hay fever, or a pollen allergy, and suffer symptoms including a runny nose, watery eyes, irritation and sneezing. The problem comes when this allergy combines with an asthmatic response, potentially leading to a full asthma attack.
The pollen count is often higher in warm weather although cold weather can also trigger an asthma attack. Usually, weather reports will include a pollen count to give you a sense of how much is in the air.
How to avoid pollen induced asthma attacks
Pollen can enter your home through open windows and doors. It settles on carpets and soft furnishings. In times of a high pollen count, you can reduce the risk of pollen-induced asthma attacks by keeping your windows closed. Wash bedding more frequently, vacuum all carpets, and also clean or vacuum soft furnishings including sofas, cushions and curtains.
Anti-histamine medication over-the-counter allergy medication can reduce some of the symptoms of pollen-induced asthma.
Try to avoid environments where pollen levels will be high. Keep doors and windows closed at home, and consider in-home air conditioning if you're frequently affected by the pollen. In the car, recirculate the air rather than bringing it in. You can also reduce the amount of pollen on your body by washing your hands and face frequently.
If you're walking in places with a lot of flowers or long grass, consider wearing a face mask for protection.
Long term, you can reduce the risk of pollen-induced asthma attacks by making sure that your garden is free from high pollen plants and flowers. Look out for plants that are low allergen, including hydrangea and roses.
How to treat your asthma during a high pollen count
If you use a preventer inhaler, or preventative medication, then make sure that you're using this routinely. Preventer inhalers build up in your body over time, and missing a day or two can leave you susceptible to increased asthma symptoms.
Carry your ventolin reliever inhaler with you. Use it if you notice a flare-up of asthma symptoms. You should also take over-the-counter anti-histamine medication if you think that you're allergic to pollen.
If you have an asthma care plan, then it's important to follow this if you experience asthma symptoms. You might also like to use a nasal spray, which helps to clear the airways and make it easier to breathe.