The holidays are fast approaching, now that you’ve finally overcome all the back to school hassle. You may wonder if any triggers around the holidays can cause your child to have a less than merry asthma attack.
Unfortunately, several environmental and seasonal triggers can make your child’s asthma worse during the holidays. Some are rather obvious, but some of the triggers are ones that may sneak up on you unawares. Protect your child from these five holiday asthma triggers, and you will have at least a little less stress this time of year.
Colds and Flus
Colds and flus tend to circulate more aggressively in the winter. Although you may think this is because of the cold weather, it is actually due to a tendency of people to gather in warm spaces that allows the bacteria and viruses to infect many people. Colds and flus can make your child have an asthma attack because they can shut down the small airways, causing shortness of breath. A flu shot and good hand hygiene can go a long way toward preventing this common holiday trigger.
Most people think of spring as a time for ragweed and pollen, but it can actually be a problem in winter as well. How is this possible? Some of the allergens can attach to Christmas trees and make their way into the household environment. In fact, pine itself can be a trigger for an asthma attack, and if you like to decorate with real pine, you may find your child having a reaction. Of course, the best course of action is to use the fake stuff to prevent the attack, but sometimes even that old fake tree you keep out in the garage can cause problems with asthma.
Trees, decorations, and other decorating materials kept in garages, attics, or some other form of storage can also cause asthmatic reactions. It isn’t so much the material in the decorations, but most of these items collect a year’s worth of dust before they are dragged out again.
If your child is allergic to dust mites, the upheaval with the Christmas items may be enough to cause an asthma attack unexpectedly. To prevent this from happening, you can thoroughly dust and clean all decorations before use and seal them in plastic bags for yearly storage. However, if the dust is a severe allergen for your child, even these measures may not prevent all asthma attacks.
There is nothing quite like the crackling of a wood fire on a cold winter night, but unfortunately, this can be an asthma trigger for some children. The smoke from the wood burning fire and the release of chemicals from the process can irritate airways and cause an asthma attack.
Your child may or may not have an aversion to wood burning, but smoke allergies are a good indication that open fires are going to cause a problem. You should also make sure to have your furnace completely checked and cleaned before turning it on for the first time in the season. Blowing hot air through the vents can release dust and smoke that can cause symptoms in your child.
Finally, cold air itself is a well-known asthma trigger. Cold air can actually dry out the lungs and activate receptors that cause asthma symptoms. The best air for asthma kids is moist, warm air, but if you live in an area that has all four seasons, you may not be able to avoid this all the time. When you send your child outside into the elements, have them wear a scarf over their nose and mouth. This will help to keep the moisture in the breathed air, and it can warm the incoming oxygen slightly.
Still, if your child will be exposed to cold air for extended periods of time, it is helpful to have rescue inhalers within easy reach, monitor their exertion, and check peak flow readings, if your doctor has you set up for that. Asthma doesn’t mean your kid can’t frolic in the snow, but you do have to be careful and monitor their breathing closely while they battle Old Man Winter.
Lynda Lampert is a registered nurse.