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Asthma and hay fever

Spring is no picnic for people with asthma.

Tips to better control and manage asthma and hay fever

  • Ensure you have an asthma action plan and follow it at all the time.
  • Carry your reliever medication with you at all times, even when you are feeling well.
  • If you have hay fever, talk with your doctor about the most effective treatment for you.
  • Call the Asthma Helpline on free call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) to speak to a trained health professional for information and support.

Asthma 

Hay fever

Asthma

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic, generally reversible disease of the airways. People with asthma have sensitive airways which can react to particles in the air. The tiny airways in the lungs constrict, the lining of these airways become swollen and mucus is produced.

Symptoms of asthma

Common asthma symptoms include;

  • Wheezing – a continuous, high pitched sound coming from the chest while breathing
  • Shortness of breath – a feeling of not being able to get enough air
  • A feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Coughing

Diagnosis

You do not have to have all of the above symptoms to be diagnosed with asthma. If you suspect that you may have asthma, it is important that you visit your Doctor (GP). Only a doctor can make a diagnosis of asthma and prescribe the right medication. Most importantly, your doctor will provide you with a personalised asthma action plan that includes information on your asthma medication and what to do in an asthma emergency.

First aid for asthma

Signs you are having an asthma attack

  • You have increasing wheezing, cough, chest tightness or shortness of breath
  • You are waking often at night with asthma symptoms
  • You need to use your reliever again within 3 hours

Visit the National Asthma Council Australia for the four steps of asthma first aid.

When is it an asthma emergency?

  • Your symptoms get worse very quickly
  • You have severe shortness of breath, can’t speak comfortably or lips look blue
  • You get little or no relief from your reliever inhaler

CALL AN AMBULANCE IN AN ASTHMA EMERGENCY BY DIALLING 000.

Asthma medication

Your doctor may prescribe you asthma medication which can be a reliever plus or minus a preventer. Ensure that you use your medicines correctly – ask your doctor, clinic nurse or pharmacist to demonstrate. Regardless of the medication make sure you have an up-to-date asthma action plan.

Asthma triggers

Asthma triggers can be different from one person to another. Common triggers include;

  • Viral infections – colds and flu
  • House dust mites
  • Animal dander
  • Pollen from grasses, trees and flowers – high pollen counts can make asthma worse
  • Moulds
  • Cold air
  • Physical activity
  • Some medicines
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Air pollution and work-related chemicals.

Asthma and allergy

Allergy occurs when a person's immune system reacts to substances in the environment that are harmless for most people. These substances are known as allergens and are found in house dust mites, pets, pollen, moulds, foods and some medicines.

Asthma and allergies are closely linked. Allergens can cause inflammation of the airways and trigger asthma symptoms. More than 8 in 10 people with asthma are affected by allergy.

Hay fever

Many people with asthma also have hay fever. Hay fever is the common name for allergic rhinitis

Symptoms of hay fever

  • Watery, itchy eyes
  • Sneezing and blocked nose.

Hay fever triggers

Symptoms occur when the person is exposed to environmental allergens, such as pollens, house dust mites, mould and animal dander.

For some people these symptoms occur all year round because they may be caused by allergens that are present in the home or at work (house dust mites, animal dander or occupationally-related allergens).

Some people have only seasonal hay fever, in spring and summer, often when pollen concentrations (from grasses, trees and weeds) are very high.

For many people with asthma, having hay fever can worsen their asthma.

Remember, higher pollen counts can also make asthma worse.

It is important to treat hay fever effectively to ensure overall good asthma control.

Management of hay fever

  • In the past, many people considered hay fever to be a nuisance, with no effective treatment
  • Hay fever can now be effectively treated in many cases.
  • This requires a step by step approach dependant on the severity of symptoms
  • Talk to your GP to ensure you are on the most effective treatment for you
  • If you live in metropolitan Adelaide, you can check the daily pollen count on the Asthma SA pollen count website.
  • If you have an allergy to pollens, stay indoors during thunderstorms in the pollen season.

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