Asthma & Allergy Season 2018

Asthma & Allergy

Asthma & Allergy

October 1st saw the beginning of Asthma and Allergy season.

But can the weather really affect a person’s asthma?

The short answer is yes it certainly can.

Weather conditions of different types can bring on asthma symptoms. They can also worsen mild symptoms and trigger a potentially lethal attack.

Some people’s asthma symptoms get worse at certain times of the year. For others, a severe storm or sudden weather change can trigger a serious and life-threatening flare-up. We saw this in 2017 in Melbourne with many infrequent Asthma suffers being hospitalised.

It seems that cold, dry conditions can be a common asthma trigger seen in many. It can cause bad flare-ups and major issues for victims of asthma. This is particularly noticeable for people who play winter sports. It is also common in those that suffer exercise-induced asthma.

Hot, humid air can also be a problem and a major trigger for some. In some areas, heat and sunlight combine with pollutants to create ground-level ozone. This kind of ozone can prove to be a strong asthma trigger.
Wet weather and windy weather may also cause problems, too. Wet weather encourages the growth of mould. The wind then agitates and blows the mould and pollen through the air.

If you think a change in the weather may be triggering your asthma or making it worse then you should talk to your Doctor. Don’t ignore the symptoms. Instead, work with them and start to track your symptoms using an asthma symptom trigger diary. Do you think that your asthma might be triggered by pollen, mould, or other allergens? Ask your doctor about allergy testing and determine exactly what is the cause.

Weather – Management Tips that are worth a Try

If you believe that air quality or the weather affect you then try these tips to help make life a little better:

Watch the weather forecast. Many forecasts give information on pollen counts and other conditions that might affect your asthma. Monitor this alongside your diary. The forecasts here are pretty reliable so get used to acting upon the information!
Limit your outdoor activity on days when your triggers are strongest. If it is wind, damp or otherwise then find things to do inside instead.

Wear a scarf over your mouth and nose when you’re outside during very cold weather and if you can bear it during hot weather too. This will definitely improve your situation if the weather is a trigger.

Keep your windows and doors closed to keep pollens and moulds out. This is also important at night while you sleep. Try not to sleep with the window open. If it’s hot, turn on the air conditioning. Not only is air conditioning cooling, it also dries and even filters the air you breathe.

Stay indoors early in the morning (before 10 a.m.). This is when pollen levels are at their highest and most likely to trigger an attack.

Avoid mowing the lawn and raking leaves. It is a much better idea to get someone else to do it!

Keep your quick-relief medicine with you at all times and use it if you need to!

Most important is DO NOT IGNORE ANY SYMPTOMS. If you feel unwell then seek medical attention. Don’t get caught out!

What is Epilepsy?

What is epilepsy

What is epilepsy

Epilepsy comes in a range of conditions and is not just one ‘condition’. In short it is a form of brain disorder which cause convulsive or not convulsive seizures.

There are many types of Epilepsy and many types of seizures.

10% of the population will experience a seizure while 3-4% will go on to be diagnosed with epilepsy.
There are seizures that are not epileptic. These include those that result from diabetes, kinked blood vessels and a range of other health conditions.

Who gets epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a common condition and can develop at any age, regardless of gender or ethnic group. Research suggests that 3-4% of the Australian population will develop epilepsy at some stage. Epilepsy was one time considered a condition that the young suffered from. It was believed that most people experienced their first seizure before the age of 20. However, the over 55 years age group is now recognised as being the most vulnerable group.

What causes epilepsy?

There are many causes of epilepsy, which vary with age. In around 50% of cases, the cause is unknown.

There are a number of causes and these include:

  • Structural abnormalities in the developing brain,
  • Infections such as meningitis or encephalitis,
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain during birth or after a stroke
  • Brain injury
  • A tumour
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Genetics


What is a seizure?

Our thoughts, feelings and actions are controlled by brain cells. These communicate through regular electrical impulses. They travel along the network of nerve cells, called neurons. A seizure occurs when the brains nerve cells misfire. This causes a sudden, uncontrolled burst of electrical activity in the brain. The communication becomes scrambled. Our thoughts, feelings or movements become confused or uncontrolled.\

Seizures can be subtle. They may cause momentary lapses of consciousness, causing sudden loss of body control. Seizures are unpredictable, and may occur every day, or occasionally in a lifetime.

While seizures can be frightening, in most instances they stop without intervention. Once the seizure is over the person gradually regains control. They re-orient themselves to their surroundings, generally without any ill effects.

How is epilepsy diagnosed?

Epilepsy is not one condition. There are numerous epilepsy syndromes. Each has its own symptoms, seizure types, causes, methods of diagnosis, outcomes and management.

In diagnosing epilepsy, the presence of seizures is often the determining factor. An eyewitness report of the event and the person’s own description of what happened are vital. These can be the doctor’s best diagnostic tools. All the tests the doctor might order are to gather specific data on the kind of seizures experienced.

A neurological examination will be conducted. It will include a test to measure the electrical activity of the brain. This will determine where in the brain the activity that is generating the seizure is happening. Specialised imaging tests may be required, along with blood tests.

Diagnosing epilepsy in a child can be a harrowing experience. Many a parent has observed seizures at home that are not subsequently picked up in hospitals by the most sophisticated scanning. This is a frustrating situation for a parent to be in. Most doctors will now listen to parents and treat them as a primary information source in helping to diagnose their children’s health.

With mobile phone technology, many handsets now have excellent video capabilities. Capturing the event or behaviour when it occurs on video, parents/carers can provide their doctor with recorded evidence to support their observations. Such recordings can be extremely helpful to the doctor when determining a diagnosis.


Types of seizures

Generally, seizures fall into two categories: primary generalised seizures and focal seizures. The difference between these two types is in how they begin.

Primary generalised seizures involve the whole brain and involve the whole body.

Focal seizures start in one part of the brain and affect that part of the body controlled by that part of  the brain.


The most common seizure types:

Primary Generalised Seizures

There are many types of generalised seizures, some convulsive, others non-convulsive.

Absence seizure

This is a brief, repetitive, non-convulsive event, usually occurring in the young, and involves the whole brain. With this type, the persons awareness and responsiveness are impaired. They simply stare, their eyes might roll back or their eyelids flutter.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between absence seizures and daydreaming. However, absence seizures start suddenly. They cannot be interrupted, last a few seconds, and then stop suddenly and the person goes on with what they were doing. Although these seizures usually last less than 10 seconds, they can occur many times daily, and thus be very disruptive to learning.


Atonic seizure

Atonic seizures are generalised seizures that affect muscle tone causing the person to collapse to the ground. The person will usually remain conscious. Often called drop attacks, these seizures can cause head or facial injury. Protective headwear is advisable to avoid constant injury. Recovery is generally quite quick.


Myoclonic seizure

Myoclonic seizures are brief, shock-like jerks of a muscle or a group of muscles. They usually last no more than a second or two. There can be just one, but sometimes many will occur within a short time.


Tonic seizure

The body’s muscle tone is greatly increased and the body, arms, or legs make sudden stiffening movements. These seizures most often occur during sleep. Seizures can occur when the person is awake. Seizure duration is usually less than 20 seconds and consciousness is generally preserved. If appropriate it is advisable for the person to wear a protective helmet to avoid injury.


Tonic-clonic seizure

Tonic-clonic seizures generally last 1 to 3 minutes.

During a tonic-clonic seizure a persons body stiffens and they fall to the ground. Air being forced past the vocal cords causes a cry or groan. The tongue or cheek may be bitten, so bloody saliva may come from the mouth. Their limbs then begin to jerk in strong, symmetrical, rhythmic movements. The person may dribble from the mouth, go blue or red in the face, or lose control of their bladder and/or bowel. The seizure generally stops after a few minutes. As consciousness returns the person may be confused, drowsy or irritated. They may have a headache and want to sleep. This drowsiness can last for a number of hours.

This seizure type is the one most people think of when they think of epilepsy.

Although this type of seizure can be frightening to watch, the seizure itself is unlikely to seriously harm the person. They may however vomit or bite their tongue and can sometimes injure themselves if they hit nearby objects as they fall or convulse.

Focal Seizures

Focal seizures start in one part of the brain and affect the part of the body controlled by that part of the brain. The seizure may involve the involuntary movement or stiffening of a limb. A feeling of déjà vu, an unpleasant smell or taste, or sensations in the stomach such as ‘butterflies’ or nausea may also be experienced. The seizure usually lasts less than two minutes.

People can have different levels of consciousness during focal seizures. Sometimes the person remains alert throughout.

Focal seizures can also affect a person’s level of consciousness. The person may appear confused and dazed. They may do strange and repetitive actions. Fiddling with their clothes, making chewing movements or uttering unusual sounds are not unusual.

The seizure usually lasts for one or two minutes. The person may be confused and drowsy for some minutes to several hours afterwards and have no memory of the seizure or the events just before or after. This type of seizure can be mistaken for drug/ alcohol affected behaviour or psychiatric disturbance.


Secondarily generalised seizures

Secondarily generalised seizures are so called because they only become generalised after the initial or primary event, a focal seizure, has begun. These occur when a burst of electrical activity in a focal area of the brain spreads throughout the brain. This event can be so brief that the person does not recall or recognise it. The generalised convulsive stage of these seizures usually lasts no more than a 1-3 minutes, similar to primary generalised seizures. Secondarily generalised seizures occur in more than 30% of people with focal seizures.

If you are concerned or have any questions relating to Epilepsy then contact your Doctor.