A Breathless Season of Asthma and Allergy Triggers in Winter Wonderland

This time of year can be breathless from wonder, but it can also be breathless from asthma triggers.  Let’s review a few of the most common holiday asthma triggers.

Christmas hot chocolate warms our spirits and hearts.

Family, fun and food are all a part of the holiday. Unfortunately, asthma triggers can lurk in all three of these holiday wonders.

And nothing spoils a party faster than an asthma attack.  In general Holiday travel, special meals, and Yuletide decorations can host triggers that cause the hard coughing, breathless wheezing and chest pressure familiar to all asthma patients.

Here in Orlando, the Florida Lung, Asthma and Sleep Specialists warn you:  If you or someone you love has asthma, take a few precautions:

1.    Breathless Consequences of Peanut Butter: 

Before you enjoy that holiday meal, it doesn’t hurt to ask your host about the ingredients.

2.    Breathless, But I Didn’t Eat It!  Cross-contamination can happen during preparing and serving any dish.  Even if you don’t intend to eat an item you know gives you trouble, you can get sick. A guest could have moved that peanut butter knife to the regular butter. It doesn’t take a large amount to trigger a reaction.

3.    B.Y.O.E. stands for “Bring your own epinephrine.” You might also bring some snacks or dine before a family party. Anyone who has ever had or seen an asthma attack knows it’s much less embarrassing to be prepared than to be breathless with an attack.

Holiday Triggers That Could Leave You Breathless

Christmas and Asthma makes me breathless.
Merry Christmas. It takes my breath away.

Of all the possible triggers, you might never suspect that your pristine Christmas tree pine is causing you shortness of breath.
Trigger:  It’s Not the Tree making you breathless; It’s the Mold

Experts at the American Institute of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology say, “It’s unlikely that you are allergic to the tree itself, but the fragrance may be irritating.”  The experts add, “Some trees may also be home to microscopic mold spores that trigger asthma or allergies, causing symptoms like sneezing or an itchy nose.” Like the AIAAA, we recommend you display an artificial tree.

Trigger:  It’s Not the Decorations making you breathless;  It’s the Mold.

The holiday decorations might also become asthma triggers due to the dust and mold that accumulates during months of storage

Breathless at Grandmother’s House:  That Holiday Trip Likely Asthma Triggers

Did you know you can become suddenly sensitized to your own pets after a few away from them?

Here’s a unique situation:  You tolerate the family dog very well, in spite of your asthma.  Then, after a trip to your grandmother’s house for a few days, you return home.  And as soon as you get home, it feels like Fido gives you asthma.

You see, it’s quite common if an asthma patient leaves a pet for a few days, then returns, the pet can provoke allergy or asthma symptoms.  Asthma sufferers call this the “Thanksgiving Effect,” although any holiday can cause a new sensitivity to Fluffy or Fido.

Trigger:  It’s not the dog that’s making you breathless, it’s the dander.

Breathless from Second, Third and Fourth Hand Smoke?

Even asthmatics tend to underestimate the power of cigarette smoke.  It can pollute an unfamiliar environment.  Did you know that oily cigarette and cigar smoke can travel and linger?

It runs through fissures in walls between rooms.  It follows electrical line and floats through ventilation systems.  It distills and cakes in carpets and drifts into drapes.  And it is a very common asthma trigger.

If you have asthma, the simple fact is you require an environment that is smoke-free.

Likewise, other strong scents like burning candles, and flickering fireplaces transform into triggers that can provoke an attack. 

Breathless from the Bugs of Winter

Bugs that in the air can infect and irritate lungs until they trigger an asthma attack.  No, we are not indicating the insects, like the mosquitos, wasps and biting flies of summer.  We are accusing the microscopic bugs, like bacteria and viruses of becoming asthma triggers.  They attack lungs.  And in the process of setting up a respiratory infection, they initiate asthma attacks.  Beware the bite of the microbes.

Be Blessed, not Stressed if you Get Breathless during This Season

Breathless: Love, Christmas and Asthma.
Christmas is Love.

It might be ridiculous to suggest, but FLASS wants to mention that if you have asthma, you need to be very wary of situations that cause stress.  “Be aware that stress can lead to asthma attacks.  Chemicals released by the body during stressful times can cause the muscles around your airways to tighten, making it difficult to breathe.”

“The biological pathways for how stress amplifies the immune response to asthma triggers include the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary (SAM) axis, and the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS) arms of the autonomic nervous system.”  Our deep readers might want to explore the microbiology and chemistry behind this major premise at this informative online resource.

So, it’s a vicious, breathless cycle.  And sometimes the types of medication needed to control asthma lead to anxiety and stress, heightening the stress level.

1.    Thus, the asthma patient feels stress and has an asthma attack.

2.    That causes more stress, anxiety and tension.  Then the medication triggers more anxiety and the entire cycle begins again.

3.    Focusing on breathing and discovering effective ways to manage stress are the only ways to break the cycle.

A Season, Breathless With Joy

Here at FLASS, the doctors and healthcare professionals love the holiday season.  Although the season is hectic, we must take a quiet moment to wish you, our readers, patients, families and staff, the joy and warmth as we approach our favorite festivals.

Let us take this opportunity to wish you:

Heart-Felt wishes for your Christmas.

A Blessed Christmas,

A Happy Chanukah,

and Brilliant Kwanza.

We celebrate the beauty of this season of peace and good will with our daily smiles and open hearts.

We bring you a beautiful little quote from Thomas S. Monson that captures the reason for the season.

Christmas is the spirit of giving without a thought of getting.

 It is happiness because we see joy in people.

forgetting self and finding time for others.

It is discarding the meaningless and stressing the true values.

We are Breathless in a good way, not with asthma, but with the wonder of the art and science of healing, and the power and grace of our patient’s bravery.

More than Greetings, the doctors and healthcare professionals of Florida Lung, Asthma and Sleep Specialists send you the Season’s Blessings.

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