With international holiday plans on hold, many Kiwis will be hitting the road this summer, here are some tips to keep your asthma and allergies in check while on holiday.
When stopping off in towns and cities across the country, check the pollen calendar and local air quality health index before you start your day. If there is poor air quality, try and find indoor activities to reduce the potential irritation of your airways, which can lead to breathlessness and coughing. Estimated pollen levels can be checked on the NZ Metservice website at www.metservice.com.
As the temperature rises and pollen counts increase, you may find yourself experiencing asthma symptoms. It is important that you are prepared and have your inhaler, spacer, mask (if you always use one) and your asthma action plan with you when travelling. It’s also a good idea to keep all these items together in one small bag for quick access.
If you know it’s going to be a hot and sunny day, be smart about what activities you have planned and mindful of where your medication is. This means making sure you have your medication nearby and kept in a cool place, such as the glove compartment in the car (in the shade), or the bag you carry - to avoid it being in direct sunlight.
If your asthma is triggered by hot and humid weather, you can help take control of your asthma by staying cool. While driving, use the air-con rather than putting the windows down. This will reduce the amount of pollen blowing into the car which can irritate your airways.
Before you travel, make sure your asthma action plan is up to date, and you are aware of your triggers. Having an asthma action plan enables you to identify when your asthma symptoms are flaring up and what to do when this happens.
We know that the hottest time of day in summer is in the afternoon. To avoid the sweltering heat, plan your outdoor activities in the morning when the air quality is best, and the temperature is lower.
While this tip may seem obvious, it is so important to drink lots of water and stay hydrated. Whether you are making a pit stop in a rural town or driving long distances, we suggest that you always keep plenty of water with you.
If you know your asthma flares up in the summer season or is triggered by hot and humid weather, it would be a good idea to speak with your doctor about your asthma treatment and make sure it’s right for you. Heat and humidity can worsen allergies with many triggers like pollen, dust and mould being more prevalent in this season also.
When travelling, make sure you know where the nearest medical centre is. If you have pre-planned the route you are driving, we suggest you note down all the medical centres you will pass just in case you need to get non-emergency help quickly.
The combined effects of the warmth, humidity, and wet weather thanks to La Niña creates optimal growing conditions for pollen-producing weeds, grasses, shrubs, and trees - a major trigger for many with asthma and allergies.
Exercise caution as the warmer weather continues, and ensure you have enough non-expired medication on you for your travels - well before the Christmas break when most medical practices are closed.
The key thing to remember is a summer break doesn’t mean an asthma medication break - so don’t get caught out! It’s important to take your medication as prescribed, even if you don’t have symptoms.
Thunderstorm asthma had previously been considered unlikely to occur in New Zealand due to our weather patterns not thought to pose a risk. However, recent climate changes have challenged this perception, with New Zealand experiencing its first thunderstorm asthma event in 2017.