Stephen Fry’s asthma worries at Christmas

Christmas day is now only four days away and when it comes to health, most people will be primarily concerned with how much stodgy food they are indulging in for fear of adding an extra few inches to their waistline.

Perhaps surprisingly though, there are another group of people besides the weight-conscious who should possibly be concerned at Christmas time – asthma sufferers.

Comedian, actor and TV Personality Stephen Fry is one of many celebrity asthma sufferers and Fry will be completely avoiding any festive bubbly with worry that even one drink could trigger an asthma attack and kill him.

He says: “Christmas parties are generally a lot of fun but I have to make sure that I avoid champagne because it triggers my asthma symptoms. People don’t always realise that there are all sorts of different triggers for asthma, including plenty of things that are in abundance during the festive season. Champagne can leave a lot of people feeling poorly the next day but for me it is far more serious because it could trigger a potentially fatal asthma attack.”

Fry’s comments came in the wake of the charity Asthma UK warning that approximately 200 people in Britain will require hospital treatment on Christmas day due to their asthma symptoms. Fry himself experienced a scary situation last month at a film screening when he was struck down with an asthma attack, and carelessly did not have a blue reliever inhaler in his possession, such as the widely used Ventolin Evohaler.

The 55-year old comedian suffered with breathing difficulties and had to resort to asking surrounding guests if anybody had an inhaler he could use. Luckily for him, other asthma sufferers at the screening were not so careless and did indeed have their inhalers. Fry later posted a tweet on his Twitter account saying: “Just had a surprise asthma attack at a screening. Got up to ask if anyone had an inhaler, so many hands went up. Saved.”

As the UK are fully in the midst of a bitterly cold winter, the decreasing temperatures alone are just one risk factor for triggering an asthma attack and therefore people are advised to wrap up warm.

However, as the cold winter months mean more people spend larger amounts of time indoors; this in itself can create a whole new set of potential asthma triggers that are just waiting to cause problems for sufferers.

For example, it might sound an exciting prospect giving your child a new pet puppy or kitten for Christmas, but if your child is an asthma sufferer then this could be disastrous for their lungs. These animals shed a high volume of something called ‘dander’ – a combination of dead skin cells and hair (or feathers) that can bring on asthma attacks and allergic reactions in those who are sensitive to these allergens. It if is determined by a doctor that your child’s allergies or asthma is worsened by dander then you may have to find an alternative home for your pet.

There are many other factors to consider though at Christmas from an indoor perspective.  Here are some important tips to reduce the risk of an asthma attack:

. Don’t use artificial snow. Although it looks festive enough and is aesthetically pleasing, fake snow straight from a can may unfortunately trigger asthma attacks. Perfumes and scented candles should also be avoided where possible.

. Don’t stress. The process of buying and wrapping presents can be a stressing time, and this isn’t even adding on the time needed to see friends, family and loved ones. Plan your time in advance in order to relax and not let stress get the better of you as this is one of many asthma triggers.

. Clean your Christmas tree and decorations. Artificial trees that have been stored in a dusty attic or damp basement through the year will gather dust and mould spores – both common asthma triggers. The process of unpacking the artificial tree out of its box can stir up all the allergens and create problems. A real tree – bought as close to Christmas as possible, is advised. However we recommend that both real and artificial trees should be taken outside and thoroughly shaken prior to any decorations being put on the tree. If your decorations have not been stored in a sealed bag, they should also be wiped down to eradicate dust and mould.

. Be careful about alcohol intake. Some asthma sufferers find that any alcoholic drink can erupt symptoms in them, whilst other such as Stephen Fry, find that they could only have symptoms after consuming a particular drink. Learn from Fry’s potentially-deadly mistake and have your reliever inhaler on you at all times.

Medical Specialists Pharmacy hopes we have made you more aware about the different factors to consider at Christmas if you are suffering from asthma or allergy problems. We do not want anybody’s Christmas to be effected through health issues and we hope you take our advice seriously.

In addition, we advise heading to our ‘Asthma and Allergies’ section of our website where we have a massive range of different inhalers and medications to ease your symptoms. In fact, many asthma suffers will also benefit from taking an anti-histamine such as Loratadine on a regular basis, to act as a precaution to allergic and asthmatic reactions, even throughout the winter months.

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