Spring is in the Air: How Changing Seasons Affects Your Lungs
The spring season is a welcome relief for many with warmer weather, longer days, and the coming of summer. But we know many who suffer from chronic lung conditions may experience worsened symptoms. Read more to learn why this happens and what you can do to prevent and treat flare-ups.
What is in the air in spring?
Flare-ups related to lung conditions mostly happen due to irritants in the air such as perfumes, aerosols, or, in the spring, pollen. As temperatures rise, animals and insects leave hibernation and flowers bloom. Like any other organism, plants reproduce and pollen is part of this process. When you inhale pollen, your immune system reacts by releasing antibodies. You may be familiar with a runny or stuffy nose, itchy eyes, or other symptoms of allergies. This is evidence of your body mistaking pollen for pathogens and fighting off the pollen in your system.
All plants produce pollen. From flowers, to trees, to grass, each is producing their own pollen all at once, many of the particles too small to be seen without a microscope. This means that not only the wind carries pollen—so does everything else. Pollen collects on any surface because it is airborne. This means you carry it, your car carries it, and so does your pet.
What can you do to prevent lung-related flare-ups this spring?
Check your local air quality index daily.
Some days are worse than others, and this also goes for pollen count. This also means you lower your risk of a flare-up and exposure to airborne irritants. The quality of air can be especially triggering for those with chronic lung conditions, such as asthma. Try to plan outdoor activities or tasks for days where there is lower pollen count by checking the air quality index for your zip code, such as this one from WebMD. If you’re going outside, remember to bring any inhalers or prescribed treatments for preventative use and treatment of symptoms.
Avoid lawn and garden maintenance.
Activities like mowing the lawn can be especially risky for those with underlying lung conditions. This is because you are directly breathing in pollen and other airborne particles kicked up by the cut grass. If you are going to be outside doing yard maintenance, wear a face covering and gloves. This prevents you from breathing in those irritants or carrying them from your hands to your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Limit your use of insect repellent when practical.
Perfumes and strong aerosols often can trigger symptoms of underlying lung conditions. Most insect repellents, especially for mosquitoes, use citronella which is a powerful odor. Try to stay a few feet away from sprays or strongly scented candles. Try an unscented lotion instead of a spray. You can cut down on sprays by using long sleeves or pants to avoid insect bites. Mosquitoes are most active in the early evening and night. Avoid going outside during these times to prevent getting bit by pests.
Try using a prescribed allergy medication.
Allergy medications are great for preventing symptoms related to general allergies or those associated with chronic lung conditions. Be sure to use these as directed by your pharmacist or doctor. When using over-the-counter allergy treatments, be sure to follow all package directions.
Clean the filters in your home.
The filters in your home are meant to collect dust and other particles in the air and prevent them from circulating in the house. Try cleaning and replacing filters regularly to prevent buildup and the movement of irritants in your ventilation system. If you have central air or another ventilation system, be sure to follow all maintenance guidelines. You can contact a local trusted HVAC service provider for help.
Avoid opening the windows.
On days with higher pollen counts, avoid opening your windows. This is for two reasons. The first is to prevent bringing outdoor air particles inside the home. The second is because these particles risk getting trapped inside and circulating through your home. Should this happen, try using an air purifier and clean the filters in your vents.
By following these simple tips, you can prevent your risk of a flare-up of an underlying lung condition. Be sure to contact your doctor for usage of any allergy medications or treatments for your symptoms. Have a healthy, happy spring!