Christmas need ­not be asthmatics’ wheezing season

As people get set for the holiday season, National Asthma Council Australia has issued a seasonal alert warning people with asthma and allergy to remain vigilant throughout December. Its chief executive officer Kristine Whorlow explains why.

December is fraught with a range of hidden dangers.

Pollen is still proving problematic in many corners of the country, thunder-storm triggered asthma is increasing and a host of Christmas-related asthma and allergy triggers will be encountered right into the New Year.

There is so much hype about hay fever in spring that many people don’t realise that the danger period for pollen-triggered asthma and allergy can extend right into early summer.

For people with asthma, major thunderstorms at this time of the year can also compound the problem, triggering sudden and severe asthma attacks and an increase in hospital admissions.

The combination of plenty of pollen in the atmosphere and heavily laden rain clouds, characteristic of thunderstorms, is hazardous.

When precipitation occurs, the pollen grains become wet and expand and then burst into smaller particles which can be breathed deep into the lungs, triggering 

asthma.

Christmas trees – real or fake – can also set off the seasonal 

wheezing. Some of the biggest pollen producers include the cypress family of trees and pine trees – the same trees that we use as the central focus of our Christmas celebrations, often bringing them into our living rooms and workplaces for weeks on end.

Artificial trees can accumulate dust and even mould – another common asthma trigger – depending on how they have been stored, particularly over the damper winter months.

To minimise the Christmas wheeze, the National Asthma Council Australia recommends vacuuming artificial trees and decorations as you get them out of the box, unpacking them outside if possible and wiping down artificial trees before putting them up inside.

Other common Christmassy concerns include scented candles, extremes of emotion and outdoor air quality, especially in high pollen or bushfire zones.

“If you have asthma it’s important to be aware of your asthma triggers and avoid them if possible. You should also continue to follow the personal written asthma action plan that you have developed with your doctor.

At this time of the year, make sure you have your medication with you and take it as advised by your doctor, even if you are out partying or away on holidays.

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