In this Q&A, Amgen's Dr. Andrew Lindsley describes how seasonal changes impact people living with asthma as well as how they can best protect themselves throughout the year.
Dr. Andrew Lindsley, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician scientist and board-certified pediatric Allergy and Immunology physician. He is currently the U.S. Medical Affairs Asset Lead for Amgen, working on respiratory and immunology diseases.
We sat down with Dr. Lindsley to learn more about how seasonal changes can affect people living with asthma, the most common seasonal asthma triggers and practical steps people with asthma can take to reduce their risk of an asthma flare up.
How do the different seasons impact people living with asthma?
Asthma symptoms change throughout the year due to a combination of seasonal and lifestyle factors. Fall and winter are generally the time when asthma flare ups happen most frequently. This is partially due to a rise in respiratory infections such as the common cold or flu, which spread more effectively in the large gatherings that happen during the holidays. Winter also means people are indoors more, which increases their exposure to household allergens such as dust mites and pet dander.
Spring and summer encourage more outdoor activities, which decreases household allergens but can cause people with seasonal allergies to experience flare ups. In North America, tree and grass pollens peak in mid-to-late spring and ragweed pollens peak in early fall, so those with seasonal allergies should be especially cautious of their outdoor exposure during this time.
What seasonal activities may be more prone to causing asthma flare ups?
Any activity in which air quality is reduced or compromised could cause a flare up. For indoor activities, this means being especially cautious in smoky or crowded spaces. For outdoor activities, it's important to monitor the air quality index (AQI) for your area and avoid any outdoor activities when AQI exceeds 50-100.
What does having an asthma flare up feel like when the seasons are changing?
Although there are some common symptoms such as shortness of breath, every asthma flare up is different. Some can come on quickly and suddenly, especially if the person is sick with a respiratory illness such as influenza. Other asthma flare ups can be more gradual and progressive.
People who have asthma should monitor their use of rescue inhalers and contact their doctor if they notice increasing symptoms, worsening control, or increased use of their rescue inhaler during a flare up.
What can people with asthma do to help mitigate these symptoms?
It's important to always follow the asthma management plan recommended by your healthcare provider. As recommended by your doctor, some other steps people can take include:
- Get the seasonal influenza vaccine each fall as soon as it becomes available
- Avoid spaces with excessive wood or tobacco smoke
- Consider wearing a KN-95 or N-95 mask when in large indoor settings or traveling to help reduce exposure to viral particles as well as other asthma triggers
If your asthma is not well controlled, consider seeing an asthma specialist in your area. For help finding an asthma specialist, visit BreakTheCycle.com.