Halloween Asthma Tricks or Triggers are not Treats!

At FLASS Each year we hear both children and adults tell harrowing asthma stories of Halloween Happenings that haunt them.  We are not talking about the normal spooky fun of ghosts and goblins or strange incidents in neighborhood haunted houses.  We are referring to the real frights that can happen when a child encounters the asthma triggers that come out every Halloween Season.

Frightening Triggers of Halloween Asthma

Halloween Treats
Halloween Devil and Asthma Triggers

A host of triggers is waiting like invisible monsters to grab the unsuspecting Halloween Trick or Treater who is living a functional life (mostly) controlled asthma.  So on this blog, let’s sharpen our awareness of the dangerous triggers that lurk in the night—and the day, around this favored kids’ season.

Some of these triggers linger long after the Holiday and become part of the fall season.  Others begin weeks before the Great Pumpkin appears.  However, the big Trick-or-Treat night can bring a whole arena of specialized triggers.

And although we present some well-researched resources, this blog also speaks from experience.  You see, this blogger has carried epinephrine in her treat-bag many times.  Yes, while my little friends feared the Zombie Apocalypse, I was terrified of running through leaves and stirring up the specter of leaf-mold.  Luckily my mom was a nurse, and she knew what to pack for my Halloween Adventure.

Halloween or Anytime:  The Emergency Asthma Attack Pack

1.      In an Asthma and Allergy Emergency Attack Pack, I carried:  My rescue inhaler, Epinephrine Auto-injector, Benadryl and my emergency care plan. (Experts agree:  “Plan ahead and communicate with others to prevent, recognize and treat a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.”)

2.      And thus, when I was a child, drifting discreetly behind us, there was always was an adult who understood how to treat anaphylactic shock.

3.      Additionally, I carried a small washcloth in a plastic bag, saturated with water and my personal brand of hypoallergenic soap. (This might sound complex, but it sure came in handy the year I got my hands into the wrong kind of monster blood make-up.  Today, we have hypo-allergenic hand wipes.)

4.      I also packed my own brand of treats, honey graham crackers, just in case everyone else’s treats had peanuts in them.

Allergy and Asthma Triggers are Standard on Halloween Costumes

I always thought home-made costumes looked better than the store-bought stuff, but even that trend brought out triggers that made me short of breath.  When one year’s princesses’ outfit became the next year’s gypsy dress, dust mites, mold, moth-balls, and other allergens made me short of breath.

1.      Did you know “Even new costumes can carry dust mites?”   The answer to that is easy, “…so make sure to wash them before wearing.”

2.      Beware:  Latex, nickel, dye and many other allergens can come with that new Halloween mask or costume.  I never had a mask because latex was never my friend, and it still isn’t.  “Many Halloween masks contain latex, so it’s best to check with the manufacturer before putting it on your child,” advises the parenting magazine, S.I. Parent.
And the writer wisely adds, “If you are hosting or attending a party, beware of latex balloons—Mylar is a safer bet. Be sure to carry epinephrine injectors, just in case.”

3.      Face paint, hairspray, cosmetics, dangerous costumes, contact lenses, and prosthetic glue would be possible asthma triggers all year long.
However, they become more popular at Halloween, and they can trigger that familiar wheezing and chest pain of an asthma attack.

The Halloween Environment:  Terrifying Asthma Triggers

As a child, the triggers I hated the most were part of my favorite neighbor’s home.  All my friends loved to visit at Halloween when she set up her dining room with an apple-bobbing tub, exotically spiced candles, fake cobwebs, and a dry-ice machine.  And wafting over it all was the faint nicotine haze of cigarette smoke.  You guessed it.  Every one of those celebratory items was an asthma trigger for me.

1.       In case of a Halloween Party, remember that “other people’s homes may have cigarette smoke, dust, or pet dander that could trigger allergies or asthma.”

2.      When decorating for Halloween, remember that candle wax, room scent, air fresheners and jack-o-lanterns can be asthma triggers.

3.      Dry ice and fog machines can make breathing very difficult.  They can even affect people who do not have to watch out for asthma triggers.

About Those Scary Stories, Games and Movies

We know fear is meant to be fun at Halloween but an asthma attack is not fun.  Strong emotions like fear or excitement can be asthma triggers.  So, let’s forego that Halloween 13 movie or that Haunted House of Blood.  Plus, make sure you take your asthma medicine as prescribed.

Halloween and Stress carry Asthma Triggers
Asthma Stressed Lungs

1.       Not just at Halloween, but all the time, a person with asthma must be careful with strong emotion.  In the words of the American Lung Association, “Every day comes with its ups and down emotionally.  It’s important to remember that strong emotions can increase rapid breathing and trigger asthma symptoms. Stress, both personal and work-related, can be a major trigger as well.”

2.      In the neighborhood, just the simple act of running between the yards can trigger “exercise-induced” asthma.  According to the Mayo Clinic, this asthma trigger, “causes shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and other symptoms during or after exercise.  The preferred term for this condition is exercise-induced bronchoconstriction.  This term is more accurate because the exercise induces narrowing of airways.”

Doctor’s Advice

The doctors and healthcare professionals at FLASS advise you to follow the advice of your healthcare provider and pre-medicate if you plan a highly physical activity for any holiday.

3.      Autumn air can quickly change.  We might enjoy a cool crispness, a blustery breeze, a heavy dampening dew.  However, to a person with asthma, any one of these can trigger an asthma attack.
My mother had ingenious designs built into my costumes so I could defend myself against the asthma trigger of a sudden chill in the environment.  The princess had a long cape.  The cowgirl had an enormous neckerchief.  The gypsy wore a long shawl.

I did not know it at the time, but she had given me trigger protection.  Asthma experts state that to ward off the asthma trigger of sudden chill air, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf.  You can reduce the effects of the coldness, and hence, defeat the trigger.

From all of us here at Florida Lung, Asthma and Sleep Specialists,

we wish you and your family a happy, healthy, and asthma attack-free Halloween.

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