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 when you need to.
  • Take your preventer medication daily as prescribed (unless a doctor tells you not to).
  • 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.

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 three 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 on 000 in an asthma emergency.

Asthma medication

There are a range of medicines available for people with asthma to manage and control their symptoms. The most common types of asthma medications are preventers and relievers.

To help get the medication straight to where it’s needed, all children should use a spacer for both reliever and preventer puffers.

Adults and adolescents are also recommended to use a spacer with their puffer.

Ensure that you use your medicines correctly – ask your doctor, clinic nurse or pharmacist to demonstrate.

If you need to use your reliever inhaler more than two days per week, other than before exercise, your asthma may not be well controlled and you should see your doctor.

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
  • Dust storms
  • 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 (or seasonal) rhinitis. See the Hay fever page for more information.