RICHMOND, (WRIC) – Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) asthma specialists are reminding those with asthma to know their triggers as the fall and winter seasons approach.

According to the 2023 Asthma Capitals report from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Richmond ranks seventh among the most challenging cities in the United States for people with asthma.

Dr. Farrukh Abbas, a pulmonologist at VCU, said multiple factors play a role in the ranking for Richmond.

“Higher than average pollen count,” Abbas said. “There’s also poor air quality [and] I believe other big factors that are playing roles are high poverty and uninsured rates that lead to health care disparities.”

Abbas added the fall and winter months are crucial for those with asthma as temperatures begin to drop and the cold air triggers shortness of breath and other respiratory symptoms.

Other activities that may seem simple may also bring about triggers in asthmatic people, such as jumping in a pile of wet leaves not knowing there could be mold which can also worsen respiratory issues.

“Hayrides in basically [the] fall season [and] patients who have dust allergies, if they go camping and sleep in bags depending on how they’ve been stored…if they have dust mites, that can also trigger asthma symptoms,” Abbas said.

It’s essential to keep in mind that as ragweed pollen continues to circulate during late summer into early fall, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America said the symptoms could be life-threatening to those with allergic asthma.

Abbas says asthmatic patients should remember to use their inhalers correctly, especially when combating emergency flare-ups.

“One study shows about 80% of patients who take inhalers make at least one mistake while using their inhalers,” he said.

Parents should make an updated action plan with their child’s healthcare provider and give it to their child’s school nurse.

Abbas adds that children should also be updated with the latest vaccines as respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19, the flu and pneumonia can worsen asthmatic symptoms.