With the dropping of temperature, the incidence of asthma attack increases extensively as cold air is a major trigger of asthma. When we inhale a blast of cold air in winter, our airways respond by going into bronchospasm, a condition caused by contraction of the airways, which causes them to get narrow making breathing difficult. This is because of the severe temperature difference between the outside air and your airways.
Winter is also the season for colds and influenza. Now we need to have a proper written asthma action plan. If you do not have the plan yet, it is strongly recommended that you should discuss this with your doctor next time you visit. This includes having regular reviews with your doctor, taking the proper medication regularly as indicated on your Asthma Action Plan and avoiding your asthma triggers.
People who have exercise-induced asthma should be especially careful about exposure to cold, dry air. Pre-medicate yourself before beginning activities that cause asthma symptoms to worsen. Consult your doctor about what medication is right for your particular need.
Obviously, you can not change the weather, but you can take steps to avoid exposure to it. Be aware of the pattern of when you experience symptoms. Keep a diary of weather conditions and track asthma flare-ups. Take asthma medication appropriately and visit your doctor for periodic asthma tune-ups.
Managing winter triggers
As cold air can trigger asthma, you could try wearing a scarf around your mouth, and try to breathe through your nose, which warms and humidifies the air.
Avoid smoke from tobacco, fireplaces and wood stoves as this can trigger asthma symptoms. Gas fireplaces and stoves should be checked and serviced regularly to prevent gas leaks. Also, make sure you use the kitchen vent when cooking.
If asthma limits your physical activity, then it is likely that your asthma is not under control — see your doctor if you have regular symptoms during or after exercising. Asthma should not stop you from exercising outside in the winter.
Take your preventive medications regularly, protect yourself from the cold, and warm up and cool down properly. Always keep quick-relief (rescue) inhaler with you and learn when you need to use your inhaler and how many puffs you take.
Exercise is important for everyone and can be done indoors on very cold days (e.g. in a gym, your home).
Tips for the prevention and management of colds and influenza
Here are some tips to help reduce the spread of viruses:
* Keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth
* Use tissues to wipe your nose, and then discard them
* Wash your hands after blowing your nose or covering your mouth for a cough or sneeze, and before preparing or eating food
* Do not share cups or cutlery with other people
* If you do catch a virus – remember to stick to your written Asthma Action Plan.
Your doctor can assess the severity of your illness, advise you on treatment and help you to better manage your asthma through the illness. It is especially important you consult your doctor if symptoms are persistent or severe.
We have to keep in mind that asthma treatment is tailored for each person and can change over time. Everyone who has the condition can benefit from asthma action plan.
You need to work closely with your doctor to develop a written asthma treatment plan that is right for you. Follow your treatment plan, and adopt the strategies to help you get better control of your asthma.
Source: The Daily Star, December 27, 2008