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Stay well with your asthma at Christmas

Don't let asthma stop the fun this Christmas

Whether it's watching out for your Christmas triggers, choosing an asthma-friendly tree, or making sure you've got enough medicine to stick to your asthma routine, there's a lot you can do to stay well with your asthma during the festive season.

Plan ahead for a symptom-free Christmas

Are real Christmas trees OK for asthma?

Watch out for dust on artificial trees

Common Christmas triggers 

Christmas tips

Plan ahead for a symptom-free Christmas

With a little bit of pre-planning you can lower your risk of asthma symptoms spoiling Christmas.

  • Check your inhalers are in date and you’ve got enough medicine left in them to last you over Christmas and New Year.
  • Don’t leave getting a new prescription until the last minute – leave enough time for the doctors to get it ready and for you to collect it.
  • Collect your prescriptions before the GP surgery and local pharmacy shut for the festive season.
  • Stock up on antihistamines and nasal sprays if you have rhinitis or other allergies.
  • Find out about pharmacy opening times near you, especially ones open on Christmas Day.
  • Ask your GP surgery about holiday opening times and who to call when they’re closed.
  • Write down out-of-hours numbers if you need a doctor over Christmas (you can also contact 111).
  • Keep a copy of your asthma action plan somewhere handy so you, and others, know what to do if you have an asthma attack.

“If  you can, book an asthma review  before the festivities, especially if you haven't had one for a while,” says Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s in-house GP.

“Your GP or asthma nurse can make sure your written asthma action plan is up to date, so you’re confident dealing with any symptoms over the Christmas period.”

Are real Christmas trees OK for asthma?

Not everyone with asthma has a problem with real Christmas trees. But they can be a trigger for some people, bringing on asthma symptoms and increasing the risk of an asthma attack.

The reason for this is that having a real Christmas tree brings mould and pollen spores into the house. And in a warm, centrally heated home spores can multiply.

If you’re sensitive to moulds and pollen you may notice symptoms like hay fever when you get a tree. And your asthma symptoms could get worse.

Christmas trees also give off a pine smell, which triggers asthma symptoms for some people too.

Here’s some tips if you’re thinking of buying a real tree:

  • Get an artificial tree if a real Christmas tree triggered your symptoms before
  • Hose down the tree before you bring it into the house. This helps wash off allergens. (Let it dry first before decorating with electric lights)
  • Keep the tree in the coolest part of the house so that spores are less likely to multiply
  • Put the tree outside straight away if you notice asthma symptoms getting worse

Watch out for dust on artificial trees

Artificial Christmas trees can gather dust over the year.  When you get your artificial tree out of the cupboard or down from the loft, wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove the dust.

And use plastic bags or boxes when you pack the tree away again, so the tree’s less likely to get dusty through the year.

Common Christmas triggers

“The best way to deal with any of your Christmas triggers is to make sure you’re sticking to your asthma routine over the holidays,” says Dr Andy.

“This means taking your preventer inhaler and any other medicines you’re taking exactly as prescribed, every day, even if you're out and about or staying with friends or family.

“Don't forget to check your reliever inhaler (usually blue) is always on hand so you can treat any symptoms quickly.”

Watch out for these common Christmas triggers. You can read more about them on our triggers pages

Colds and viruses

With more socialising going on around Christmas, you’re more at risk of catching colds and viruses which are a top asthma trigger for people with asthma. Cut your risk with the flu vaccine. Ask your GP or pharmacist if you haven't had yours yet.  

Cold weather

Going out from a warm house when the weather’s cold outside can trigger symptoms. Wear a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth so you’re not breathing in cold air.

Stress

Christmas can be a stressful time. Remember that stress and anxiety are common asthma triggers. So however busy things get, make some time for yourself if you can.

Alcohol

Some alcoholic drinks contain more sulphites and histamine than others. These can trigger asthma symptoms. Stick to the drinks you know don’t affect you. Or switch to non-alcoholic drinks.

Food

If you have food allergies and you’re visiting friends or family, make sure you remind them about what you can and can’t eat.

Open fires

Whether it’s smoke from open fires or wood burning stoves it can trigger asthma symptoms. Use smokeless fuels at home, and if you’re going to someone else’s house, remind them that an open fire could be a problem for you.

Cigarette smoke

If you’re visiting friends or relatives, or you’ve got people coming round who smoke cigarettes, pipes or cigars, tell them beforehand that they’ll need to avoid smoking, or smoke outside

Scented candles

If you know scented candles are a trigger for your asthma, let friends and family know not to give you one, and not to burn them when you’re visiting. 

Asthma UK Helpline over Christmas

Please note our Helpline is closing at 4pm on Christmas Eve, and will reopen on Thursday 2 January. Please call 111 for urgent asthma advice, or 999 if you think you're having an asthma attack. 

Our asthma nurses can give you expert advice on staying well over the rest of the holiday season.

You can call them on 0300 222 5800 (Monday-Friday; 9am-5pm). Or WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728. 

Last updated December 2019

Next review due December 2022