Christmas time is a period for giving, receiving, eating, drinking, and generally being merry with family and loved ones. Surely there is not a man, woman, or child who is not dreading the festive period? Well, think again.
It may be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, but Christmas is just about at the top of the list for health hazards. Not only is it the peak period for colds, flu and rotten hangovers, but Britain’s 5.4 million asthma sufferers can face a particularly difficult time, having to contend with a wide range of different triggers.
Every Christmas Day, approximately 300 people across the UK are hospitalised because of a life-threatening asthma attack. That is a worrying statistic, but there are certain changes you can make in your everyday life to reduce the risk of suffering an asthma attack over the festive period.
The Christmas tree
Clean your Christmas tree and decorations. The process of unpacking the artificial tree out of its box can stir up all the allergens and create problems. 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. Therefore, it is important to wipe down your artificial tree and decorations with a damp cloth to remove the dust. Moreover, when it is time to pack the artificial tree and decorations away, make sure to use plastic bags and boxes to reduce the risk of collecting dust.
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. If you do choose a real tree, hose it down before you bring it into the house as this will wash off the allergens and keep the tree in the coolest part of the house – mould spores can multiply in a warm environment.
To enjoy a Christmas free of asthma symptoms, it is absolutely vital to plan ahead. Make sure you have sufficient asthma medicines to get you through the Christmas period. This means stocking up from your GP surgery or local/online pharmacy before they close for any length of time, and know what to do in case of an emergency.
Make a note of any out-of-hours numbers for your GP so you and your loved ones are clued up on which numbers to ring in case of emergency, and also speak to your GP or asthma nurse about having an asthma review if you haven’t had one for a while. It is also important to remember that some online pharmacies may not permit you to order unless you have had a recent asthma check-up.
Don’t set off on any journey without making sure you have packed yours and your child’s asthma medicines – the last thing you want to do is begin to experience asthma symptoms and realise you have left the inhalers at home. Keep the medicines in their original boxes/packaging with the prescribed label still stuck on, and leave spare inhalers at home on the off chance you return home without the medicines you took with you.
Make family and friends aware of your asthma and potential triggers prior to visiting their home – they may be able to make minor adjustments to lessen the risk of exacerbating your asthma symptoms. For example, some asthmatics worry about visiting dusty homes or ones with an open fire. Certain foods, alcohol, and cigarette smoke can cause mayhem for those with asthma, therefore tell people beforehand of your triggers. Prepare in advance on your trip away and know what to do or who to contact in case of an emergency. You can even share your asthma action plan with friends and family you are visiting so that they are fully aware of the vital action that needs to be taken in the event you suffer with an asthma attack.
Sometimes, emotions and the way you feel can play a key role in exactly how bad your asthma actually is. A Christmas survey conducted by Asthma UK found that 47% of people believe stress is a primary trigger for their or their child’s asthma over Christmas. Therefore, scheduling in plenty of relaxation time is crucial during the festive period.
It is important to make time for de-stressing and relaxing family activities such as colouring, doing arts and crafts, going for walks or reading Christmas books together, which will help to eliminate some of the stress or excitement over Christmas. Asthma UK have an excellent guide to managing stress with asthma and include many great tips to keep stress at bay.
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.