Asthma Triggers Archives - Active Healthcare

Time To Rake the Leaves – Fall Allergy Season

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , , , ,

Many of you may think that the springtime is the worst season for allergy sufferers. Everyone has different triggers, so the fall can also be troublesome for those with allergies and asthma. During the fall we enjoy beautiful scenery as the leaves change from green to brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange. As the season progresses, all those colorful leaves fall, becoming an allergy trigger of their own.

Fall Allergy Triggers: Pollen and Mold Spores

Although each allergy sufferer has different triggers, many people are allergic to plants that produce pollen in the fall season, such as ragweed. Another common fall allergen is mold spores. Remember all those beautiful fall leaves? Once they fall and linger on your lawn they get rained on – creating a perfect environment for the growth of mold spores.

Fall Leaves

When you rake all those leaves into a big pile – maybe for the neighborhood kids to jump into or to compost or bag up for pickup, all those mold spores are released back into the air.

Once exposed, your body reacts to the triggers and you’ll likely have a runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes and an irritated nose and throat. Doesn’t that sound like fun!

Outdoor Yardwork Tips: Protect Yourself Before and After

Since you can’t escape the yard work, if you suffer from allergies you can take these steps to minimize your symptoms this fall.

  • Wear a filter mask, especially when raking leaves
  • Rake often giving less time for mold spores to develop
  • Choose long sleeves and wear gloves to minimize exposure to your skin
  • Avoid touching your nose and eyes during yardwork
  • Choose early morning and evening times for yardwork when pollen counts are lowest

Once your yardwork is complete remember to leave your shoes at the door and change your clothing to limit tracking allergens into your home. Shower as soon as possible as allergens will linger on your skin and hair.

Even if you are not doing yardwork, just going outside can trigger an allergy attack. Remember it is best to stay inside when you hear one of your neighbors firing up their leaf blowers!

Allergy Medications Can Help

You can also work with your healthcare provider to choose the best over the counter and/or prescription medications to manage your seasonal symptoms. Some medications need to be taken in advance of the season for maximum effect. Consider adding nasal saline irrigation on a regular basis during the fall months to clear mucous and allergens from your system.

Additional Resources:

House Plants and Allergens

Holiday Planning For Those With Asthma and Allergies

Climate Changes and Outdoor Allergies


Asthma Sufferers – Plan for Fun at the NC State Fair

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,

Are you excited about the North Carolina State Fair?

Here are some pointers to help you enjoy all the fair has to offer, even if you have asthma.

October is Not Too Early for Flu Shots

The flu causes inflammation and narrowing of your airways which can in turn trigger an asthma flare-up.

People with asthma should always get their yearly flu shot to both avoid catching the flu and suffering its complications that can trigger asthma attacks.

Sheep and Rabbits and Ponies Oh My!

State FairOne of the favorite kid friendly attractions at the fair is the petting zoo. Take the proper steps to protect yourself when visiting all of the adorable baby animals. Close contact with animals can trigger an asthma attack because you may come in contact with proteins that are found in animal saliva, skin flakes, urine and feces.

Animal fur collects pollen, mold and other outdoor allergens that can be another trigger of your asthma symptoms. Remind your family members to wash their hands after visiting the petting zoo. Do not touch your eyes or any part of your face until you wash your hands!

Navigating Fair Food: Be Aware of Food Allergies

Each year the food vendors at the North Carolina State Fair come up with new and existing food offerings. In 2017 a few of the special treats on the menu were Deep Fried Key Lime Bites, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Corn on the Cob, and the Blue Hawaii Funnel Cake. If you are unsure about what you are ordering, ask for an ingredients list. Those with severe food allergies may want to skip the fair food altogether and pack their own snacks. Always remember to keep food allergy medication on hand.

Watch for Exposure to Second Hand Smoke

Big crowds at outdoor venues can mean increased exposure to second hand smoke. If you are exposed to second hand smoke it is best to try to remove yourself from the area. Smoke will irate your airways and can cause them to swell and narrow. Secondhand smoke is harmful to children and adults with asthma and is a common trigger.

Travel with an extra inhaler and asthma medications. Everyone can enjoy their day out at the fair when they are prepared to manage asthma flare-ups.

Now that you’re prepared, what are you looking forward to seeing at the fair this year? Share this post with family and friends.

Additional Resources:

North Carolina State Fair Website
Best and Worst Foods for Asthmatics
Five Flu Myths Debunked


Surviving Summer Asthma Flare-Ups

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,

summer asthma flare upsSummer is here! People with asthma should always be prepared for asthma triggers as the weather continues to get hotter.

You may experience triggers like coughing and shortness of breath due to the hot weather. Here are some tips for surviving summer asthma flare ups.

Tip 1: Exercise smart.

People with asthma may be more sensitive to extreme temperatures and the pollution that comes with it. That is why it is important to avoid outdoor exercising if air pollution is high. If you are going to work out, try to plan outdoor activities for early morning and late evening.

Tip 2: Check air quality

Always check the air quality before going outside. You can reduce the impact of your asthma triggers by being prepared and knowing your limits.

Sign up for air quality alerts by visiting airnow.gov.

Tip 3: Traveling Smart.

It is always best to plan ahead when you have asthma, especially before you take a trip. Whether you are traveling by airplane, train, or car it is always best to keep your asthma medications on hand at all times. Consider purchasing a portable nebulizer, which allows you to do treatments while traveling.

Tip 4: Talk to your Doctor.

If you are experiencing asthma symptoms and you cannot get your symptoms under control, it may be time to see your healthcare provider. Make sure to keep your asthma action plan up to date.

Tip 5: Exposure to Bad Environments

Change clothes and shower after outside work to remove allergens that could trigger an asthma attack. It is always best to be aware of what can be harmful to you and your asthma and take the proper steps to prevent yourself from having an attack.

Additional Resources

Ozone and Air Quality

AirNow – Air Quality Basics


Asthma Protection During Hurricane Season

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , , , , , ,

Are You Prepared for Hurricane Season?

With June 1st being the beginning of hurricane season, what’s a better time to discuss how to protect yourself and your family from asthma triggers after a hurricane or tropical storm? Hurricanes produce high winds which blow pollen and mold spores into the air that can make asthma symptoms worse. During these times people with asthma can experience wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest, and other complications with breathing. Here are a few tips to help prevent asthma attacks during the upcoming hurricane season.

hurricane season

Avoid Homes or Buildings with Suspected Mold Damage

Once any flooding clears and the cleanup process begins people with asthma are at risk of exposure to mold and dust. In extreme cases it is best to not even enter a building or home that has mold growth that you can see or smell. But if you have to be exposed to these conditions, protect yourself by wearing a filtering mask, rubber gloves, and eye protection.

Coping with Stress and Emotion

During the aftermath of a hurricane, stress levels are high and they can trigger an attack. That’s why it is best to take care of your emotional state of mind during these stressful times. Communicate and connect with other people and seek help if needed.

Washing Hands

Keeping your hands clean can help prevent the spread of germs. In many cases catching a cold or the flu can also trigger an asthma attack. If safe water is unavailable on a temporary basis use hand sanitizer.

Stock Up on Asthma Medications

Most importantly always have your asthma medication on hand and use as prescribed or when needed to control your asthma attacks. Consider storing medication and important documents in a waterproof container.

What About Climate Change?

Climate change may play a major factor in increasing allergies and asthma triggers. Rising temperatures lead to longer allergy seasons which can make the air quality worse. A warming climate also increases ground level ozone levels. This pollutant is considered to be one of the biggest hazards to people with asthma. It causes shortness of breath, coughing, aggravates lung diseases, and increases the frequency of asthma attacks.

Additional Resources

Helpful Links – Post Hurricane – Indoor Air Quality
What Climate Change Means for Allergy Season


Fun Kids Asthma Awareness Activities

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   , ,

What’s better than sharing a fun website with your kids? Here is one to help them learn more about asthma for Asthma Awareness month. The name of the website is NoAttacks.org which is sponsored by the EPA.

When you visit the website you will be drawn in by all of the bright colors and fun activities. You will see different sections that you and your child can click on to learn more about asthma attack prevention and also tips on how to come up with an asthma action plan.

asthma triggers

Kids’ Stuff

In this section you’ll find downloadable books to read and coloring books.
There are also other fun activities from crossword puzzles to seek and find that will help you and your child learn more about asthma and asthma awareness.

air quality

Media Center

In the media center, watch and sing along with The Breathe Easies. The group sings about how to stop your asthma triggers in your home.

The Breathe Easies songs are available in five different languages, English, Spanish, Lakota, Navajo, and Anishinaabe.

breathe easies


7 Asthma Myths for Asthma Awareness Month

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , , , , ,

Did you know that May is Asthma Awareness month? With spring in the air it is a perfect time to test your knowledge and learn more about asthma symptoms and triggers. Check out these seven asthma myths.

Myth: All Asthma is the same

There are several types of asthma but here are the most common ones. Allergic asthma is most commonly associated with grass, mold, and dust. In cough-variant asthma the number one symptom is coughing. This commonly flairs when there is dust, cold air or a strong smell. Exercise-induced asthma is when you have a hard time catching your breath during intensive physical activity. The effects can last five to twenty minutes after working out.

Myth: People with Asthma Should Not Exercise

Physical activity is beneficial to everyone, including those with asthma. Exercise can be easier for people with asthma when it is done in places of high humidity as this helps open the airways.

Read some tips about Exercising with Asthma

Myth: Pets cause Asthma

For some people, asthma is triggered by pet allergens. The protein found in pets’ saliva, skin flakes, urine, and feces can also cause allergic reactions. Surprisingly the fur of an animal is not always an asthma trigger. Animals with fur can also be a carrier of other triggers such as dust and other allergens.

Read more about how Puppies Can Reduce A Child’s Risk for Asthma

Myth: Don’t Worry about Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke and smoke in general is not good for anyone’s health. Exposure to smoke is one of the most common asthma triggers. Smoke irritates airways and causes them to swell and narrow. Irritated airways can more easily fill with mucus making breathing more difficult.

Myth: You can Outgrow Asthma

People who have asthma when they are very young may outgrow their symptoms as their lungs develop. However, in many cases, symptoms can reoccur in adulthood following exposure to smoke or respiratory viruses.

Myth: Asthma is Contagious

Asthma is not contagious but it can run in your family. The Centers for Disease Control report that three-fifths of all asthma cases are hereditary. If one of your parents have asthma you are three to six times more likely to develop it yourself.

Myth: Asthma has a Cure

There is no cure for asthma but with the right tools and knowledge, your asthma can be managed so you can live a healthy life.

So how did you do on the quiz? See the additional links below to expand your asthma knowledge. Why not share this post with friends and family who need to learn more about this chronic disease.

Additional resources:

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America – Asthma Facts and Figures
Asthma Facts and Figures

Social Media – Asthma and Allergy Awareness Campaigns
Asthma and Allergy Awareness Campaigns


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: How Houseplants Affect Asthma and Air Quality

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , , , , , , , , , , ,

We are all familiar with the usual suspects that trigger asthma including secondhand smoke, dust mites, mold, pests like cockroaches, and pets. Did you know that your houseplants can affect the air quality in your home and your asthma?

The Good: Many Common Houseplants Improve Indoor Air Quality

houseplants and air qualityPlants are frequently used to mediate the effects of pollution and toxins in our external environment. Our indoor environments can contain toxins such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Two common indoor VOC pollutants are benzene and formaldehyde. Benzene can be found in plastics, fabrics, pesticides, and cigarette smoke. Common household items such as dish detergent, fabric softener, and carpet cleaners all may contain formaldehyde.

VOCs have been linked to asthma and more serious conditions including respiratory illnesses and cancer. Plants act as filters to remove these harmful pollutants via their leaves and roots. In addition, the microorganisms living in the plant’s soil are a big help in neutralizing the air. Air-quality friendly plants include the Peace Lily, Golden Pothos, Red-Edged Dracaena, Snake Plant, and Asparagus Fern.

The Bad: These Houseplants are Indoor Irritants

Your friendly ficus that fills an empty corner has allergens in its sap. Palms, of the male variety, produce excess pollen. Check in with your local nursery to find a ‘female’ palm which is not a pollen offender. English ivy can cause skin irritations. African violets have beautiful flowers, but their leaves are dust catchers.

Don’t forget about cut flowers! If you home includes allergy sufferers, you may want to select flowers that generate less pollen like lilies, iris, roses and zinnias. Try to avoid daisies, chrysanthemums, and sunflowers in your table top bouquets.

Healthy Plants Mean Healthier Air: Avoid the Ugly Reality of Mold and Fungi

Over-watering your plants can lead to the development of a fungus and mold which are known asthma triggers. Remember that plants like ferns can be kept in rooms with higher humidity levels, such as your bathroom to keep them healthy and minimize over-watering.

Additional Resources

NASA Guide to Air-Filtering Houseplants
Houseplant Watering Guide


Are You Asthma Aware?

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ 1 , ,

Did you know that May is Asthma Awareness Month?

Asthma Awareness MonthSpring is in the air, and as temperatures rise, an asthmatic’s symptoms reach their peak.

This is a perfect time to review some key points about asthma. With May quickly approaching, let’s have a refresher of some Frequently Asked Questions asked by asthmatics and their loved ones.

Question: Should I only take my controller medication if I’m having an attack?

Answer: No, controller medications are used to treat the underlying issue and not an attack. They do not immediately relieve symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, or chest tightness.

Question: Can I exercise and play sports even if I have asthma?

Answer: Yes, exercise is possible with asthma, but consult your doctor before starting a new exercise program or sport.

Question: Can I become addicted to my controller medication?

Answer: No, asthma medications are not considered addictive. With that said, it is important to understand them and to use them properly.

Question: Is it okay if I’m around smoke as long as I am outdoors?

Answer: No, secondhand smoke should always be avoided if you are an asthma sufferer because tobacco smoke is among the most common of asthma triggers.

Question: Does my controller medication stop working the longer I use it?

Answer: No, these medications are designed to work for the long haul and should be taken daily until your doctor suggests otherwise.

Question: Is it normal to use my rescue inhaler at least once per day?

Answer: No, this inhaler is not meant to be used every day, only in the instance of an asthma attack.

Question: Will using inhaled steroids/controller medication stunt my growth?

Answer: No, asthma drugs do not stunt growth, although one recent study did report a temporary stunt in childhood that disappears by adulthood.

To celebrate Asthma Awareness Month, the Triangle Asthma Coalition would like to make you aware of two upcoming events:

  1. 2017 Asthma Fair, May 6th, 9 AM to 12:30 PM, Raleigh, NC – Held at the Andrews Center at Wake Med and hosted by the Triangle Asthma Coalition, this educational event provides patients and their families with information about taking control of their asthma.
  2. 2017 Asthma Summit, May 24th, 8 AM to 4:15 PM, Burlington, NC – Held at St. Mark’s Church and hosted by the Asthma Alliance of North Carolina, the summit’s target audience includes nurses, respiratory therapists, registered environmental health specialists, and health educators.

For more information about the events, please visit the events page of the Triangle Asthma Coalition website.

Happy Asthma Awareness Month to all!

 


Vaping is Smoking, Too

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   , ,

VapingIt’s no secret that tobacco is one of the most common asthma triggers. Tobacco smoke irritates the airways and causes your lungs to produce more mucus. In addition, it weakens the tiny hairs called cilia that sweep away mucus and other irritants that settle in your airways.

Quitting smoking is an excellent method of combating asthma, but you aren’t out of the woods yet. Another important risk factor to consider is secondhand smoke. It is especially harmful for children. If you are an asthmatic, tell your family and friends how tobacco smoke affects you. Have them smoke outside and far away from the doorway, if possible. Encourage them to quit for their own health, not just yours.

Vaping is Not Risk Free

Since it is common knowledge that tobacco smoke is very bad for one’s health, many nicotine addicts turn to electronic cigarettes and “vaping.” It gives many a false sense of security and the mindset of “at least I’m not smoking actual cigarettes.” Vaping is harmful, too, but in a different way. The vapor released by e-cigarettes contains formaldehyde, another asthma trigger. So, while people are on the right track with quitting tobacco, they need to know that vaping is not risk-free and may worsen their asthma symptoms. Vaping is a developing trend among teens because there are a number of flavors offered, some even tasting like candy and adult beverages.

Another thing to avoid is secondhand vapor. Since electronic cigarettes are a relatively new phenomenon, many businesses and workplaces do not have policies in place to keep employees and patrons from “vaping” indoors. In the same way you would tell your family and friends not to smoke around you, you should also ask them to vape elsewhere.

E-Cigarettes Pose Similar Risks

A recent National Jewish Health study links the liquid in e-cigarettes to an increase in respiratory infections. During the study, a test was performed on young, healthy non-smokers and it discovered that e-cigarette use damaged the cells in the airways that defend against harmful inhalants, such as viruses. “The cells showed a strong pro-inflammatory response within minutes and the risk of viral infection in those cells rose significantly,” said Hong Wei Chu, MD, who led the study.

If you are an asthmatic or have one in your life, remember to avoid both smoking and vaping for a healthier future.


When Valentine’s Day is Bittersweet

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   , , ,

Valentine's candy heartsMost people are aware of the most common asthma triggers which are referred to as the 3 Ps: pets, pollen, and pollution. Recent studies have brought a new one to light – sugar. The reason? Sugar causes inflammation of the airways. I bet you didn’t know that a little sugar could cause such a reaction.

In 2008, Dr. Sonja Kiersten, a researcher from the Nestle Institute in Lausanne, Switzerland, began to make this discovery. Dr. Kiersten and her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania used mice to perform their research by feeding them sugar water. This experiment produced the following results.

  • The mice’s airways became inflamed, which made them more prone to developing asthma.
  • The mice fed the sugar water had airways that were twice as reactive as those that drank plain water.
  • The mice became addicted to the sugar water and wanted more.

Limiting your sugar intake is beneficial to everyone, as sugar can affect your body in a variety of ways including:

  • It can lead to an over-active pancreas, which can cause inflammation in various parts of the body. The pancreas is a small organ, so it can only take so much before it starts releasing hormones that affect your sugar levels.  It also produces insulin.  When you feed it with refined sugar like that in a can of soda, for example, your pancreas goes into overdrive and produces too much insulin. This will, in turn, inflame air passages.
  • Excess sugar leads to weight gain. Obesity aggravates asthma, as it does with many other chronic illnesses.

In addition to sugar, dairy can also worsen an asthmatic’s symptoms.  Many doctors tell their asthma patients to try to eliminate dairy from their diets because of the mucus milk and cheese produce, which clogs the airways and constricts air passages.  Even coffee can be harmful.  It is definitely important for asthmatics to stay hydrated and water is the best way for them to do so.

With Valentine’s Day approaching, here are some ideas on how you and your family can celebrate this popular holiday with minimal impact:

  • Have your child take Valentines to school with small toys attached instead (ex: a balloon).
  • Do a Valentine’s Day craft.
  • Make a special, heart-shaped breakfast using cookie cutters.
  • Take him/her out on a “date” not involving food such as a movie, walk, game night, etc.


Puppies Reduce a Child’s Risk for Asthma

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health 1 , ,

puppies

The benefits of having a canine companion to come home to are numerous. New research states that lowering a child’s asthma risk is yet another reason to add to that list. Having a dog has been shown to reduce a child’s risk for asthma. It can also reduce levels of stress and depression, increase one’s physical shape, and enhance social skills.

A recent Swedish asthma study included more than one million children. Those with dogs in the home within the infant’s first year of life had a 15% lower rate of asthma.

Researchers say that their findings indicate that having a dog in the house may affect their child’s microbiome. Each individual’s inner bacterial environment of the gut is influenced by the food we consume and the air we breathe. Examinations are being made into whether there is a specific strain of bacteria that lessens the likelihood of asthma that is transmitted from dog to child.

Pets like Puppies = More time Outdoors

It is also worth noting that children living in households with dogs almost certainly spend more time outdoors and exercising more frequently. Both of these factors lower a child’s probability of developing asthma.

Interestingly enough, researchers have also explored data relating to children who grew up on farms. These children were exposed to farm animals such as cows, sheep, or horses. Findings show that these farm children had a 25% lower risk for an asthma diagnosis than those who did not grow up on a farm.

While these discoveries are not enough to definitively prove that puppies prevent asthma, they absolutely suggest that it isn’t necessary to rehome family pets for fear of their children developing respiratory problems by being around dogs.

Tove Fall, a coordinator of the study and assistant professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, stated, “It might be due to a single factor or more likely, a combination of several factors related to dog ownership lifestyle or dog owner’s attitudes, such as kids’ exposure to household dirt and pet dust, time spent outdoors or being physically active.”

All I’m hearing is a scientific reason for parents to give in and give their children a puppy!


How to Plan for Camping with Asthma and Allergies

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ 1 , , ,
Camping: Photo by Ben Duchac, Unsplash.

Photo by Ben Duchac, Unsplash.

Camping isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s one of those time-honored American traditions that everyone should try at least once. It’s an opportunity to enjoy fresh air, hike in beautiful surroundings, and take a refreshing break from pervasive technology. Experienced campers understand the importance of packing proper gear, plenty of food and water, and making plans in case of an emergency. For individuals with asthma and allergies, it’s especially important to be well prepared before embarking on a camping trip.

If you have asthma and/or allergies, here are some tips on how to prepare for a camping trip that’s both fun and safe:

  • Update Your Asthma Management Plan: Your asthma management/action plan should be updated annually with your doctor, or more frequently if you have severe asthma. This plan will outline how to handle emergencies like an asthma attack or allergic reaction. As you pack for your camping trip, double check that you have all your medication with you.
  • Make an Emergency Plan with Travel Partners: Talk to those joining you on your camping trip about what to do in the event of an emergency—whether it is an injury, allergic reaction, or asthma attack. Share emergency contact information, familiarize yourselves with the location of the nearest hospital, and pack a first aid kit. If you have an epinephrine auto-injector to treat anaphylaxis, make sure your travel companions are familiar with how to administer the medicine in the event you should need their assistance. Epiniephrine should be kept at room temperature, so if you carry one, try to take frequent breaks in shaded areas or indoors if possible.
  • Make a Meal Plan: If you have food allergies, carry a list of foods that you’re allergic to and share that with your travel partners. Talk to your companions about how to plan for meals that don’t conflict with your list. Pack plenty of healthy, non-allergenic snacks to keep your energy up during long hikes.
  • Steer Clear of the Campfire: If you have asthma, smoke from campfires can be irritating to your airways and can even trigger an asthma attack. Sit a safe distance away from the campfire; you may have to swap seats if the wind changes and smoke blows in your direction.

A little planning will go a long way in making your camping trip not only safe but also fun and memorable.

Sources:

Camping Safe with Allergies & Asthma, by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Epinephrine Auto-Injectors, by Food Allergy Research & Education


What Ozone Forecast Season Means for Air Quality

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , ,
Ozone: Photo from Pexels.

Photo from Pexels.

Spring snuck up on me this year–not that I’m complaining! It doesn’t seem that long ago that the news was monopolized by winter weather warnings and threats of snowstorms. I’m more than happy to put those snow boots away and slip into my favorite summer sandals! The advent of warmer weather also means we’re heading into ozone forecast season which is when ground-level ozone, created by pollution from sources like cars and smokestacks, is at its highest.

High amounts of ground-level ozone can worsen asthma symptoms, so it’s key for asthmatics to check the forecast daily, which is posted to our Asthma Therapy page. Ozone forecast season stretches from April 1 to October 31 in North Carolina and serves as a reminder to check the forecast before heading outdoors.

Ozone Levels and Air Quality Forecasts

The forecast is color coded to indicate air quality and the potential health implications:

  • Good: Code Green
  • Moderate: Code Yellow – Dangerous to those with extreme asthma
  • Unhealthy For Sensitive Groups: Code Orange
  • Unhealthy For Most Everyone:Code Red
  • Very Unhealthy: Code Purple – The whole population is at risk; this is an emergency condition.

 

The air quality forecast is published each day at 3pm to help you plan your outdoor activities for the following day. In addition to accessing the forecast on our website, you can also sign up for email, phone, or mobile app alerts via the Environmental Protection Agency’s AirNow website.

Ozone forecast season isn’t just a reminder to monitor air quality; it can also inspire us to take steps to improving air quality. Cleaner air means fewer high ozone days, healthier lungs, and more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. One step you can take to improve air quality is to choose sustainable transportation for your daily commute to work. Rethink your commute by carpooling, vanpooling, biking to work, working from home, or taking the bus. Many local transit agencies offer financial incentives for switching over to a sustainable mode of transportation – like GoTriangle’s GoSmart program. Choosing alternative transportation can also help you save money on gas and vehicle maintenance. It’s been several years since our last code red ozone day and I hope this ozone forecast season proves to be a healthy and safe one!


Local Honey Won’t Provide Sweet Relief from Allergies

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
Photo by Sonja Langford, Unsplash

Photo by Sonja Langford, Unsplash

Lately I’ve noticed a lot of buzz about home remedies. I’ve read about eating coconut for stomach troubles, using milk of magnesia as deodorant, and I’ve noticed a movement growing surrounding the purported benefits of essential oils. One home remedy I hear about the most is the potential benefit of eating local honey to treat seasonal allergies caused by plant pollen.

The theory behind using local honey as an allergy treatment is that bees collect local pollen to make honey, so by eating local honey, you expose yourself to a little bit of what you’re allergic to desensitize yourself to it—this is called “immunotherapy.” Allergy shots are a form of immunotherapy—patients are exposed to larger and larger doses of an allergen to build up immunity to it.

Immunotherapy: Local Honey contains Local Pollen

On the surface, the theory behind using honey as immunotherapy seems like a sound one, but there’s no way to determine exactly which plants the bees are collecting pollen from to make the honey. Allergy shots target specific allergens, but eating local honey is a bit like rolling the dice. Bees also prefer collecting pollen from flowers but most allergies generate from the pollen of grasses, trees and weeds, not flowering plants. The honey that bees produce is from local pollen, but not necessarily from sources that cause common allergies and not in any targeted way like an allergy shot. A 2002 study in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology showed that eating local honey didn’t improve allergy symptoms. Study participants that ate local honey didn’t fare any better than participants eating processed honey or taking a placebo.

There’s also a slight risk in consuming local honey that’s unprocessed—it can contain bacteria, mold, pollen and even bee parts that in rare cases, can cause an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, this home remedy doesn’t hold up, but the good news is that honey is still a great way to add a touch of sweetness to my afternoon cup of tea!

Additional Resources on Spring Allergies

Want to test your knowledge on other spring allergy myths? Check out this post, “Fact or Fiction? Spring Allergy Myths Debunked.”


What Climate Change Means for Allergy Season

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
There may be a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies.

There may be a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies.

One unique and popular way to usher in spring in the Triangle area is by attending a movie on the lawn at the North Carolina Museum of Art. Thousands turn out with picnic baskets in tow to enjoy a favorite snack while watching a film under the stars. That’s one of the best parts about spring—the ability to enjoy the outdoors in the deliciously warm weather. Whether it’s at a movie on the lawn, a walk on the greenway, or a game of Frisbee in the park, outdoor activities rule. One aspect of spring that I could do without though is the sneezing and the itchy, watery eyes caused by seasonal allergies.

Climate Change Can Effect Vegetation and Pollution

If you feel like your allergies have gotten worse in recent years, you’re not alone. Many scientists believe that there’s a link between climate change and an increase in seasonal allergies since plants have started blooming earlier in the season and continue releasing pollen longer. Scientific research suggests that one very common allergen—ragweed—has increased due to higher temperatures and increased levels of carbon dioxide. A warmer climate also means higher ozone levels. Ground-level ozone caused by pollution can exacerbate asthma symptoms, especially during the ozone forecast season that runs from April through October.

Yet many scientists are also hopeful that the pendulum may soon start to swing the other way on climate change. There’s been a lot of buzz in the media recently about the Paris climate change agreement. Many are hopeful that stronger environmental goals will combat global warming. This climate change deal in combination with the Clean Power Plan, which President Barack Obama announced in August 2015, could also be beneficial in reducing the impact of seasonal allergies on asthma sufferers. The goal of the Clean Power Plan is to reduce power plant emissions by 32% by 2030 which could reduce as many as 90,000 asthma attacks in children by 2030.

Allergy Season Tips

It’s of course going to take some time for these climate change plans to go into effect, but asthmatics can take some immediate steps to lessen the blow of seasonal allergies. If you have asthma, make sure you have an up-to-date asthma management plan that you’ve developed with your doctor. This plan should outline which medications to take on a regular basis and what to do in the event of an asthma attack. You can also use one of these five free apps, like EPA’s AIRNOW and Allery Alert, to track air quality and allergy forecasts so you can better prepare for days with high ozone levels and peak pollen counts.


Asthmatics with Occasional Migraines at Greater Risk of Developing Chronic Migraines

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   ,
Asthmatics and Chronic Migraines

Nearly 12% of Americans experience migraines.

For those that experience migraines, these intense headaches can vary from an annoyance to a major disruption in daily living. That head-pounding, throbbing feeling can be followed by nausea and even vomiting. The painful effects of a migraine can last for a few hours or even a few days. The causes of these debilitating headaches are as unique as the individuals that they affect. Common triggers include hormonal changes; temperature and barometric pressure changes; bright light, loud noises or potent smells; stress and certain food additives. New research shows that some asthmatics are also at a higher risk of experiencing chronic migraines.

Researchers tracked the migraine patterns of 4,500 Americans for a year; each study participant started with less than 15 migraines a month. A year after the study began, researchers found that 5% of study participants with asthma had developed chronic migraines (15 or more migraines a month). In comparison, only 2.5% of individuals without asthma developed chronic migraines. Those with asthma were twice as likely to develop chronic migraines. On a national scale, nearly 12% of Americans experience migraines and 1% have chronic migraines. The study was published in November 2015 in the journal Headache.

“If you have asthma along with episodic or occasional migraine, then your headaches are more likely to evolve into a more disabling form known as chronic migraine,” explains Vincent Martin, MD, professor of medicine in UC’s Division of General Internal Medicine, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the UC Neuroscience Institute and lead author in the study.

Migraine Symptom Management

By improving management of their symptoms, asthmatics can also reduce migraine symptoms since the two conditions often go hand in hand. Both conditions are linked to inflammation in airways or blood vessels–asthmatics experience inflammation in the airways, and migraine sufferers experience inflammation and widening and narrowing of blood vessels. Also, the same inflammatory chemicals that are activated during an asthma attack are activated during a migraine. Some medications used to treat asthma can trigger migraine symptoms and visa versa, but doctors can work with patients to identify alternative medications that won’t exacerbate symptoms.


EPA Implements Cleaner Diesel Bus Program to Improve Air Quality for Students

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   ,
The EPA will provide $7 million to update diesel buses.

The EPA will provide $7 million to update diesel buses.

It seems like I get stuck behind a smelly car at least once a week during my commute. I feel trapped in my own car, breathing in smelly exhaust fumes. It always seems difficult getting away from those cars—I can’t seem to change lanes fast enough. Pollution from exhaust is more than just an annoyance—it has a big impact on our respiratory health. Diesel-powered school buses are linked to increasing rates of children missing school and experiencing reduced lung function. In response to this growing health concern, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking strides to reduce the number of high-polluting vehicles that are out on the road.

Rebates Available to Update Aging School Buses

In an effort to reduce school children’s exposure to diesel emissions, the EPA will provide $7 million in rebates to replace or retrofit 400 diesel school buses of model years 2006 and older. The rebates will be available to 85 school bus fleets in 35 states. Many older buses pre-date EPA standards that have made newer diesel engines over 90% cleaner. The EPA has required stricter emissions standards on diesel vehicles purchased after 2006.

“Schools and other organizations that install clean diesel technology are doing more than just saving money–they’re creating cleaner, healthier air for children and all community residents,” said Christopher Grundler, director of EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, in a press release issued by the EPA on Dec. 11, 2015. “This program continues to help thousands of children breathe easier and lead safer lives year after year.”

Diesel Exhaust: A Potent Pollutant

Diesel pollution is high up on the list as one of most prevalent sources of toxic air pollution in the U.S. It’s not only linked to respiratory problems like asthma attacks, but also to heart attacks, cancer and strokes. Diesel pollution increases the risk of cancer over seven times more than the combined risk of the other 181 air toxics that the EPA tracks, according to the Clean Air Task Force.

Switching to cleaner diesel buses can greatly benefit children with asthma. A University of Michigan and University of Washington joint study released in 2015 showed that switching to ultra low sulfur diesel reduced a marker for lung inflammation by more than 16% for all the children in the study, and by 20-31% for children with asthma.


5 Healthy New Years Resolutions for Asthma Sufferers

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ Leave a comment   , , , ,

New Years ResolutionsIf you’re getting ready to write your New Year’s resolutions, you’re in good company—45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. The coming New Year is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past year and identify areas for improvement. Most resolutions, 47% to be exact, are related to self-improvement or education—we’d all like to be a little healthier physically, relationally, and mentally. If you have asthma and are hoping for a healthier New Year, here are 5 resolutions to help guide you on your journey to better manage your asthma:

  1. Update Your Asthma Action Plan – An asthma action (or management) plan is an important first step in guiding the treatment of your asthma. Your doctor can work with you to identify what to do in situations like an asthma attack or allergy flare-up. An action plan should be updated annually with a doctor, and more frequently for individuals with severe asthma.
  2. Keep Healthy Eating and Sleeping Habits – Getting plenty of rest and eating a balanced diet will help keep your immune system healthy. Being overweight can make asthma symptoms worse, but eating plenty of fruits and vegetables that contain vitamins C and E can help control inflammation in the lungs.
  3. Quit Smoking – Smoking is one of the most common asthma triggers and can result in major health conditions like emphysema and lung cancer. Having the right support can make quitting easier, so the American Lung Association provides The Freedom From Smoking® group clinic, an eight-session, step-by-step plan to quit smoking.
  4. Exercise Regularly – There’s a long-standing myth that exercise can make asthma symptoms worse, but regular, moderate exercise can actually improve asthma symptoms. Thirty minutes of exercise a day—like walking, biking and yoga—can significantly reduce asthma symptoms. Check with your doctor to identify which medications you may need to take before and after exercising.
  5. Avoid Asthma Triggers – Common asthma triggers are tobacco smoke, mold, pet dander, pollen, and colds/upper respiratory infections. Talk to your doctor about identifying your asthma triggers and how to actively avoid them. For example, you may need special bedding if dust mites are an asthma trigger for you.

Sources:

13 New Year’s Resolutions for People with Allergies and Asthma, by Carol Proctor, Allergy & Asthma Health

Join Freedom From Smoking, American Lung Association

Can foods I eat affect my asthma symptoms? By James T.C.Li, Mayo Clinic


New Research Explores Link Between Vitamin D and Cold Symptoms in Asthma Sufferers

Lisa Feierstein Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health, Men's Health, Women's Health Leave a comment  
Asthma sufferers are often Vitamin D deficient.

Asthma sufferers are often Vitamin D deficient.

We often associate a vitamin D deficiency with weak bones, but it’s also linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, cognitive impairment in older adults, and severe asthma in children. Vitamin D, or the “sunshine vitamin,” is created in the body after exposure to sunlight, and it can be absorbed from foods like fish and fish liver oils, egg yolks, and from fortified dairy and grain products. Several studies have explored whether or not children with asthma would benefit from increased levels of vitamin D since children with asthma often have low levels of the vitamin. Catching a cold can be especially challenging for asthma sufferers because it can exacerbate or trigger asthma symptoms. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin conducted a recent study to investigate if alleviating the vitamin D deficiency in asthma sufferers would lessen cold symptoms or reduce the number of colds that asthmatics experience.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin studied the effects of vitamin D on 408 adults with mild to moderate asthma. Study participants received vitamin D on a daily basis or a placebo for a period of 28 weeks. Patients that took vitamin D supplements reached normal levels of vitamin D after 12 weeks. Nearly half of the study participants had at least one cold during the duration of the study, but researchers found that achieving normal vitamin D levels didn’t decrease the number of colds or the severity of colds that patients experienced.

Although increasing levels of vitamin D didn’t reduce the severity or number of colds for asthma sufferers, there are some other steps they can take to prevent colds and manage asthma symptoms if they do catch a cold. Frequent hand washing is one easy way to promote good hygiene and reduce the spread of the cold virus. Asthma sufferers can also work with their doctor to create an asthma action plan that includes a recommendation on how to adjust medication dosage during a cold.


Proposed Legislation Will Make Public Housing Smoke-free

Lisa Feierstein Allergies, Asthma, Breathe EZ, Children's Health Leave a comment   ,

Smoking_CCO_Pixabay_2016_02_04It wasn’t that long ago that restaurants asked patrons, “Would you like to be seated in the smoking or non-smoking section?” In 2010, North Carolina’s legislature passed North Carolina’s Smoke-Free Restaurants and Bars Law that gradually made that question obsolete. Smoke-free legislation is growing traction on a national level with the proposed rule to make public housing properties smoke-free.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro joined Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy in Alexandria, VA to announce the proposed federal rule for smoke-free public housing in November. Secretary Castro says the proposed rule will protect residents—especially the elderly and children with asthma—from harmful secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke is a common asthma trigger that can result in wheezing, coughing, or even an asthma attack.

“Everyone – no matter where they live – deserves a chance to grow up in a healthy, smoke-free home,” said U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy. “There is no safe level of secondhand smoke. So, when 58 million Americans – including 15 million children – are exposed to secondhand smoke, we have an obligation to act. That is what Secretary Castro is doing with this proposal.”

Residents in HUD-assisted housing use emergency rooms more frequently and are at a higher risk of health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, in comparison to the general population and other low-income households. The proposed smoke-free rule could reduce the impact of smoke-related illnesses and improve the overall health of these residents; smoke-free buildings also cost less to clean and maintain a higher property value. If passed, the regulation would affect about one million households in the U.S., and would have the greatest impact on the New York City Housing Authority, which provides 178,000 public housing apartments to over 400,000 individuals.


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