Autumn is on its way to deliver its annual gift of sweater-friendly weather, crackling bonfires and crisp apple cider. Unfortunately, the cooler temperatures and drier air that give fall its iconic feel can pose real problems for people who have trouble breathing. Instead of basking in the changing leaves and scent of pumpkin spice, those with conditions like asthma or COPD may spend their fall season staying indoors.
But fall doesn’t have to leave you feeling breathless. There are things you can do to make those fantastic autumn days a true breath of fresh air. Here are our top tips to help you breathe easier this fall.
Beware of Bonfires
A crackling bonfire may be a fall staple, but it can be bad news for those with respiratory issues. Inhaling even a small amount of smoke can cause dangerous airway tightening, and smoke from some flammable items can carry chemicals and allergens that irritate the lungs. If you do attend a bonfire, you can reduce your risk by burning only untreated wood, sitting well away from the flames, and keeping your rescue medications nearby.
Avoid Autumn Allergens
Seasonal allergies aren’t just miserable, they also can be dangerous for people with underlying lung conditions. Allergic reactions can cause anaphylaxis, especially in those with asthma or COPD. Common fall allergens include ragweed, mold, and tree pollen. To make breathing easier, avoid your known allergy triggers and consider immunotherapy to treat the source of your allergy symptoms.
Use Medications if Needed
Your doctor may prescribe medications to help combat your breathing difficulties. These can include bronchodilators, corticosteroids, or other respiratory medications that reduce inflammation and help make your airways less reactive. Take all medications as prescribed and keep any rescue medications close by in case of emergencies.
Those with asthma and other lung conditions tend to breathe quickly and through the mouth, even when their symptoms are not severe. When you breathe deeply through your mouth, you expose your lungs to large amounts of cool, dry air – a known asthma trigger. The problem is exacerbated during autumn, when temperatures are cool and humidity levels are low.
When temperatures drop, try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth. This will warm the air before it reaches your lungs to minimize any potential reaction. You can also practice breathing exercises like diaphragmatic or pursed-lip breathing to train yourself to naturally breathe better during fall and beyond.