Taking SATs, GCSEs, A-levels or university exams this spring? You might be shocked to hear that research shows having a diagnosis of asthma is a risk factor in dropping a grade between mock and final exams. Plus, if you’re one of the four in five people with asthma who also have hay fever, evidence shows that hay fever can affect your concentration and work productivity too.
Stop asthma and hay fever symptoms getting in the way of revision and exam performance – and do yourself proud. Use this simple checklist to avoid the asthma grade drop, and protect yourself from pollen.
Sort out the essentials:
Take all your asthma medicines exactly as prescribed. Managing your asthma well is the best way of reducing the risk of pollen making your asthma symptoms worse.
Check your preventer inhaler and nasal spray technique. A little tweak could cut your symptoms even more by making sure you getting the right amount of medicines.
Know the signs that your asthma is getting worse and what to do about it, by filling in or updating your written asthma action plan.
Get the right hay fever medicines prescribed or over the counter. You can prevent as well as relieve symptoms if you take your hay fever medicine two weeks before the pollen that affects you comes into season (remember tree pollen can start as early as February). This could include nasal steroids, anti-histamines or anti-inflammatory eye-drops; so ask your pharmacist or GP which treatment(s) are right for you.
From March onwards:
Tell your teacher(s) or professor(s) you have hay fever as well as asthma. Explain how the hay fever can trigger asthma symptoms, especially on high pollen count days which often hit during exam season. Why?
They might be able to:
Write to the exam board on your behalf in case your condition can be taken into account when they mark your paper.
Make sure you’re given a desk away from any open windows, especially if you have an exam in the early morning or late afternoon because pollen counts are usually high then.
If your hay fever sometimes triggers severe asthma symptoms even when you’re taking your medicine as prescribed, speak to your GP about keeping a ‘rescue’ course of oral steroids (prednisolone) at home just in case. If you take this rescue course, you then need to take a break from revising and make an urgent appointment to see your GP or asthma nurse straight away.
From April onwards…
Keep using your medicines for hay fever to prevent symptoms. Or, if your pollen allergy has already kicked in, stick with the hay fever treatment even if your symptoms don’t improve straight away as sometimes it can take a while to make a difference.
Keep taking your medicines for asthma and hay fever even if your symptoms improve. This means is that your medicines are working – and so can you!
Keep an eye on the pollen forecast by following us on Twitter. If you notice that your asthma symptoms are worse when the pollen count is high, ask your GP or asthma nurse to assess your treatment.
People with asthma have told us the following tips have helped them too:
On exam days:
Take your usual medicine.
Pack an ‘exam kit’ – reliever inhaler, tissues and an unlabelled bottle of water to make sure you’re hydrated – to keep on your desk.
On the way to the exam, wear wraparound sunglasses to stop pollen getting in your eyes.
Splash your eyes with cold water before going into the exam room.
Even if you’re revising an important topic, you’re about to go into an exam hall or you’re in the middle of an exam, don’t worry about your results or about disturbing your friends.
You’re having an asthma attack and you need to ask someone to call an ambulance if….
Your reliever isn’t helping
Your symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheeze or tight chest)
You’retoo breathless or it’s difficult to speak, eat or sleep
You’re feeling exhausted