By Alisa-Jayne Butler
Here at Naturally Dynamic Health we are promoting National Asthma Week (1st – 7th of September) and I thought I’d give some background information about this condition, which we see fairly often in clinic.
Around 1 in 10 Australians have asthma – that equates to over 2 million people and it affects people of all ages.
What is asthma?
It is a condition that involves the airways, in which the lungs are sensitive and tend to react to what are known as ‘triggers’ and this makes it harder to breathe.
The body responds to these triggers in 3 different ways, that all cause the airway to narrow:
Inside lining of airway becomes red and swollen in a process known as inflammation
Extra mucous (sticky fluid) may be produced which blocks the airways
Muscles around airway squeeze tight and this is called ‘bronchoconstriction’
These responses result in various symptoms of asthma, with the most common being:
Shortness of breath
Chest tightness and/or
Dry, irritating and continual cough (especially at night or early in the morning, or with exercise or activity)
Everyone’s asthma is different and everyone has different triggers. For most people, triggers are only a problem when their asthma is not well controlled. Examples of triggers include:
Colds and flu
Whilst the coming of spring heralds a great deal of excitement from most people, with the thaw of winter disappearing and plants and people start to emerge from their 3 month hibernation. Many people with asthma or those suffering from allergies, often greet this new season with sneezing, runny or blocked noses, watery and itchy eyes and sometimes extreme fatigue. In Australia, August through to March can be particularly difficult, as there is an increased amount of pollen in the air which can trigger an asthma attack and make life pretty uncomfortable.
There are still many plants and trees that you can have in your garden that will not cause you any reaction, so there’s no reason not to have a beautiful display of plants and flowers all year round. And if you don’t find that plants cause you any problems then you can enjoy them all – remember, everyone with asthma has different triggers.
With the courtesy of asthmaaustralia.org.au, below is some information and tips on how you can manage your garden so people with allergies and asthma can get outside and enjoy this season as well!
What changes can I make to my garden?
Think about what you know your triggers are, and look at the types of plants you have in the garden. Those plants that produce large amounts of pollen or have strong perfumes can be a problem. Some pollen producing plants like grasses can be cut back before they release their pollen, so you can still have them in your garden without any problem. Others might be better to remove altogether, especially any plants that cause a skin reaction or rash if touched.
A nursery should be able to advise on which plants and trees are high in pollen or are heavily scented, and can also let you know when to cut grasses and other pollen-producing plants.
Handy tips if you have plant problems
Avoid plants that pollinate themselves via the wind (they release millions of tiny pollen grains that react with your eyes, nose, sinus and airways)
Choose plants pollinated by birds and insects as they don’t release their pollen into the air e.g. most Australian natives
Use female species as male plants produce the troublesome pollen
Avoid plants with strong fragrances or odours, and certainly don’t plant them under bedroom windows or next to entrances and exits (roses are okay)
Choose a native or slow-growing, low or no pollen grass that doesn’t require frequent mowing
Use inorganic mulches e.g. pebbles and gravel to reduce weeds and mould spores
Weed the garden often
Avoid compost heaps
Don’t garden on windy days when pollen may be in the air
Always carry your reliever puffer with you when working in the garden and make sure you have a written Asthma Action Plan so you know what to do if you have problems
1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) | asthmaaustralia.org.au
Other important approaches
You may be able to control what goes into your own garden, but there are a lot of plants and triggers out in the world that could still affect you. The best approach is to make sure that you have your asthma under control with the right level of medication, and getting on top of your hay fever with the right treatment can make a big difference to your asthma as well.
There are a lot of other natural approaches that may assist in reducing the inflammation and increasing your immune system integrity, please contact the clinic if you wish to see Diedre or Alisa to discuss these options.