Community Pharmacy

“12 Days of Asthma” will help you avoid your asthma triggers this Christmas

As the festive season kicks in, the Asthma Society is warning the 470,000 people with asthma in Ireland to be aware of their asthma triggers and to plan ahead for the Christmas holidays.

Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society, said: “This time of year can be extremely dangerous for people with asthma. During the festive season, people don’t take their asthma as seriously as they might throughout the rest of the year. One person dies every week from asthma and 90% of these deaths are preventable.

It is so important that people with asthma plan ahead for the holiday season, ensuring that they or their child have enough medication to last the Christmas, as pharmacies will be closed.  It is also essential that they stick to their asthma routine and remember to take their asthma medication daily.  Asthma triggers also need to be taken seriously during the holidays and avoided where necessary. The “12 Days of Asthma” campaign helps patients by compiling a list of the most common Christmas asthma triggers and some measures to combat them.”

Common asthma triggers during the festive season include:

  1. Artificial Christmas trees and decorations gather mould and dust when they are in storage during the year.
    • Damp dust the tree/decorations when they are removed from storage to remove dust and mould
    • Damp dust your tree/decorations before storing them to remove any mould and dust that may have landed on them over Christmas, and wrap them in plastic before storage
  2. Real Christmas trees or any festive greenery such as holly and mistletoe contain mould which thrives in a warm environment. Bringing the tree into your home means the mould will grow and the spores can trigger asthma.
    • Hose down the tree before you bring it into the home
    • Keep the tree in the coolest part of the house
    • Remove the tree if you notice it triggering your asthma symptoms
  3. Open Fires emit smoke and fumes which can be a big trigger for many people with asthma.
    • Avoid being in a room with an open fire where possible, if you know it triggers your asthma
    • Burn smokeless fuel
    • Ensure your chimney has been cleaned to allow fumes to flow through easily
    • If possible, have a sealed appliance fitted instead of an open fire
  4. Scented Candles often gifted at Christmas, can be a big trigger for people with asthma.
    • Use non-scented candles or LED candles instead
    • Re-gift scented candles if they trigger your asthma
  5. Food which is often consumed in larger than normal amounts during the festive season, often contains ingredients that people with asthma are allergic to, which can trigger their asthma.
    • Know your allergies – get an allergy test and do not eat foods you are allergic to
    • Let family/friends know in advance if you are going to their house about your food allergies so they can prepare an alternative meal for you
  6. Alcohol contains histamines and sulphites which trigger asthma in many people
    • Avoid drinking a certain alcohol if it triggers your asthma
    • Bring your own drink when attending parties so you know exactly what is in it
  7. Weather changes can have a huge effect on people with asthma, especially the cold weather during winter.
    • Breathe through a scarf when outdoors to help filter the cold air
    • Try to exercise indoors instead of outside to avoid the cold air
  8. Stress is a huge trigger for people with asthma and people often get unnecessarily stressed around the Christmas time.
    • Christmas shouldn’t be a time for stressing. Try to remain calm and enjoy this time of the year – especially for people with asthma
    • If you are unable to get your stress under control, speak to someone, family, friend or a professional
    • Some people find great stress release in meditation and yoga
  9. Colds and flus are very prevalent at this time of the year and can be particularly dangerous for people with asthma.
    • Try to avoid contracting and spreading the cold/flu
    • Speak to your doctor about getting the flu vaccine before Christmas
  10. Sex, like any other form of physical exercise, can be a trigger for people with asthma, but you can still have your romantic Christmas.
    • Try to have your asthma medication close by
    • If asthma symptoms occur during sex do not be afraid to stop and use your inhaler
  11. Cigarette smoke during nights out over the Christmas will be a problem for people with asthma.
    • Do not smoke if you have asthma
    • Do not allow anyone to smoke in your house
    • Avoid second hand smoke whenever possible
  12. Cleaning Products -many people will clean their houses before or after the Christmas holidays.
    • Use natural cleaning agents such as lemon and water

The Asthma Society thanked all its members for their ongoing support during 2018 and to wish them a happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.  Tragically one person dies every week from asthma.

For any patients who needs advice on managing their asthma triggers at Christmas, the Asthma Society runs a free Asthma and COPD Adviceline which users can call on 1800 44 54 64 to speak to a respiratory nurse who can help you manage your asthma triggers and all other aspects of asthma and COPD management.  The Asthma Adviceline will be closed for the Christmas holidays from the 22nd of December to the 2nd of January. If anyone would like to speak to a nurse before Christmas, please call as soon as possible. The advice line is also taking bookings for January 2019.

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