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Monsoon and Asthma
Dr Avdhesh Bansal
why does asthma increase during monsoon?
  1. Heavy rains with thunderstorm may be responsible for an epidemic outbreak of asthma, because of a sudden release of a large amount of pollen in the air.
  2. Increased humidity gives rise to the growth of fungal spores or molds, which increase the incidence of asthmatic attacks, as these molds are strong allergens for asthmatics.
  3. Housedust mites thrive in damp houses, thereby increasing the asthma symptoms, especially in children.
  4. The monsoon rains can increase air pollution levels by precipitating dissolved chemicals like sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which may act as direct irritants to asthmatics.
  5. During monsoon, vehicular air pollution does not dissipate easily and tends to remain suspended in the atmosphere, thereby increasing the rate of asthmatic attacks.
  6. Monsoon also forces pets like cats and dogs to stay indoors, thereby increasing dander in the house.
  7. During the monsoon season, some viral infections may also increase, exacerbating the symptoms of asthma.
There are some important things that you can do to prevent worsening of your asthma:
Keep asthma under control. Take your asthma medicine regularly. Most people with chronic asthma take medication (usually an inhaled corticosteroid) that decreases the inflammation of the airways. Studies show that taking these drugs on a daily basis decreases your risk of having asthma attacks. If your doctor puts you on a daily asthma medication, it’s important that you take it as prescribed and DO NOT MISS A SINGLE DOSE!

Minimize asthma triggers
You can take an active role in controlling your condition by identifying those things that trigger your asthma attacks, and taking measures to minimize these triggers at home and at work or school. If there is a situation where you cannot avoid the trigger, pre-treatment with appropriate medication prescribed by your doctor can prevent the symptoms.
How to minimize asthma triggers
  • Air out damp, humid areas frequently. Run a dehumidifier to keep humidity between 25% and 50%.
  • Use air conditioners when possible.
  • Clean bathrooms regularly, using products that kill and prevent mold.
  • Use exhaust fans to vent steam.
  • Keep indoor plants out of bedrooms.
  • When painting, add mold inhibitor to paint to prevent mold from growing.
  • Avoid sources of outdoor molds, such as wet leaves or garden debris.
  • To clean visible mold, use a cleaning solution containing bleach and detergent.
  • Limit your outdoor activities during times of high pollen, such as early morning.
  • Stay indoors during humid or windy days when pollen counts are high.
  • Keep windows closed during pollen seasons.
  • Encase pillows and mattresses with allergen-proof, zippered covers.
  • Pillows and bedding should not contain feathers.
  • Wash all bedding in hot water, once a week.
  • Non-carpeted flooring is best. If you cannot get rid of your carpeting, vacuum often with a multi-layer, allergen-proof vacuum bag. Wear a mask while vacuuming. If your child has asthma, do not vacuum while he or she is in the room.
  • Avoid curtains and drapes. Use plain window shades instead of miniblinds. Washable curtains should be washed in hot water every 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Dust all surfaces with a damp cloth often, including lampshades and windowsills.
  • Keep clutter under control. Toys and books should be stored in enclosed bookshelves, drawers or closets.
  • Replace traditional stuffed animals with washable stuffed animals.
  • Keep all clothing in drawers and closets. Keep drawers and closets closed.
  • Cover air ducts with filters. Change these when soiled.
  • Regularly change filters of heaters and air conditioners.
  • Long visits to friends and family who own pets should be avoided. If you do visit, make sure you take asthma or allergy medicines before the visit. Exposure to the pets should be kept to a minimum when visiting.
  • If you must have a cat or dog in the home, restrict its living area. It should not be allowed in your bedroom at any time. If possible, keep the pet outside.
  • Wash your pet weekly.
  • Remove as much carpeting as possible. Animal dander deposits in the carpet and stays there, even after the pet has gone from the home.
Can I discover my allergies?
If you suspect that you may have allergies as a trigger for your asthma, then do a simple memory recall test – try to correlate your symptoms to any allergen that you may have inhaled or eaten in the past. Test yourself by exposing yourself to that allergen again. If you feel that you have identified some allergens, ask your doctor/ allergist to perform the skin test to properly identify and confirm your allergies.
Dr Avdhesh Bansal is Senior Consultant, Department of Respiratory, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.  
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