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Fourth of July Survival Guide for Migraine and Asthma Sufferers

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By Jana Bounds  

 

The Fourth of July is a time of patriotism and family gatherings: barbeques, sunshine, reconnection, and of course the staple every 4th: fireworks. Although undeniably beautiful, fireworks are also characterized by the Moffitt Cancer Center as things of “toxic beauty.”  

These beautiful toxins impact those with migraines, asthma, heart disease (short-term smoke exposure is linked to heart attacks and arrythmias) and other respiratory conditions. And research shows that people with asthma are 62% more likely to have migraine than people without, and those with migraine have a 56% higher chance of having asthma than those without migraine.   

All Those Heavy Metals in the Air 

“Particulate matter, such as PM 2.5 and black carbon or soot, is emitted with any type of combustion. But with fireworks, that smoke also includes toxic metals,” according to NPR 

Smoke from fireworks is way more toxic than any other pollutants we often encounter.  

It makes sense when you consider the ingredients: gun powder, accelerant, heavy metals (like lead and copper), and a plethora of contaminants like ozone, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide, and sulfur dioxide.  

Instead of throwing a wet blanket on your Fourth of July festivities, we are sharing tips to help you navigate celebrations as best you can – to hopefully help you enjoy time with your family and friends and avoid any trips to the emergency room.  

 

Fourth of July Tips for Migraineurs  

  • Regulate your alcohol consumption (and try not to drink at all). But, if you do, make sure you’re staying properly hydrated (including taking electrolyte supplements).  
  • Earplugs, anyone? You should say yes. The big booms of fireworks displays are enough to give anyone a headache, not just migraineurs. Keep your earplugs handy, and maybe carry a few extra pairs to share with children or other adults who are struggling with the noise.  
  • Dodge processed meats like hot dogs at barbeques. Those nitrates are bad news for migraineurs.  
  • Try to dodge the cookies, cupcakes, ice cream and pies. A test of willpower, for sure. Maybe try to satisfy those sweet cravings with natural sugar from a hydrating fruit like watermelon.  

Fourth of July Tips for Those with Asthma and Respiratory Conditions 

  • Be upwind of fireworks whenever possible. 
  • Leave the grilling to someone else.  
  • Stand back from bonfires and check the wind to make sure the smoke isn’t blowing your way. 
  • If you’re a guest at someone’s home and they’re shooting off fireworks, let them know you may have to sneak inside and watch through a window if the smoke gets bad. 
  • Consider wearing an N95 mask to help your lungs dodge particulates. 
  • Be vigilant about taking your asthma medications. 
  • If you have a peak flow meter, make sure to use it in the days leading up to the 4th and on the 4th, so you have a better indication of if you’re at a heightened risk of an attack. 
  • Keep your rescue (albuterol) inhaler on you at all times. 
  • Make sure you and your loved ones have a good grasp of your asthma action plan so you know when to go to the hospital.  

And here’s an interesting tidbit: Many doctors believe that better asthma control can help ease migraines.  

Although researchers haven’t proven for sure that asthma attacks can prompt migraines, many patients believe that they get “asthma headaches,” Dennis K. Ledford, MD, professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of South Florida College of Medicine told WebMD. He offers a possible explanation: “Asthma’s stressful, and stress is one of the provocateurs of migraine.” 

 Plan Ahead

 It might be tempting, especially during times of celebration, to try and forget that you have a health condition that puts your good times at risk. Denial, particularly in this case, is counterproductive. Asthma and migraines are both conditions you can’t just forget about, mainly since a lack of preparation or even a brief lapse of judgement can spell days of pain in the head or in the chest.  

 Plan ahead to help yourself and your loved ones have a fantastic Fourth of July and dodge asthma attacks and migraine pain!  

Note to Parents:  

Kids lungs are sensitive to the toxins from fireworks as well, so look out for their air quality and breathing. Also, children are sensitive to loud noises, so help protect their ears.  

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