Life Saving Tips on How to Manage Asthma at Winter
As we enter November the temperatures should be beginning to drop harshly over the coming months. The elderly are particularly vulnerable at this time of year and that is why the NHS are persistently urging older people to make sure they obtain their free annual flu jab. However, there are another group of people who may be feeling the effects of the colder air as we approach winter. According to the Met Office, the meteorological winter begins in exactly a months’ time, on 1 December 2017, but many of the 5.4 million asthmatics in the UK may already be experiencing a worsening in their symptoms as the mornings get noticeably colder. If you are seeing a change in your symptoms of asthma at winter, you are not alone. According to Asthma UK, a recent survey found that 75% of people find that colder air can trigger off their asthma symptoms. Over winter especially, the two primary issues facing those that have asthma, is that the air is cold and dry, and the other problem is that people generally have more sinus and upper respiratory infections, both of which can easily trigger or worsen asthma attacks. People with asthma have sensitive airways and therefore cold or damp air can get into the airways and trigger them to go into spasm, causing symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. There are a number of things that asthmatics can do to limit the frequency and severity of their symptoms during the colder months.
Top Tips for Limiting Symptoms of Asthma at Winter
- Use your asthma medication precisely as advised and discussed with your GP or asthma nurse.
- Carry your reliever inhaler with you at all times, and don’t forget the importance of regularly using the preventer inhaler – if prescribed by your doctor.
- Double check with your GP or asthma nurse that you are correctly using your asthma inhaler(s).
- Make sure to go for regular asthma reviews.
- Check the weather forecast on a regular basis.
- If sudden changes in temperature – i.e. going from a warm house into a cold street - trigger symptoms, wrap a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth before going out. This warms up the air before you breathe it in.
- If you do venture outside, it is vital to try and keep warm and dry. Make sure to wear a scarf, gloves and a hat, and have an umbrella at hand.
- Many people with asthma take a preventative dose of their medicine before heading outside, whether this be to exercise, walk the dog, etc. Discuss with your GP or asthma nurse first, but you may benefit from a bronchodilator at least a half-hour before heading out in the cold. The inhaler will help to open the airways and provide extra protection.
- Keep an asthma action plan, regardless of the season. This should detail how to control your asthma and what to do if you have an asthma attack. Know when to see your doctor, or when to go to A&E.
- If you find your asthma symptoms significantly worsen during cold weather, speak to your GP or asthma nurse about possibly changing the mediations you take and when you take them.
- Try to breathe in via your nose instead of the mouth. The nose is designed to warm the air as you breathe it in.
- Exercise indoors. On the days when it feels bitterly cold outside and the wind chill makes it feel like it’s below zero, it is advisable to exercise indoors, or even a gym, as opposed to exercising outside. If you persist on exercising outdoors, choose a time when it is likely to be warmer, such as mid-afternoon.
- If you choose to stay indoors because it’s too cold outside, don’t sit by the fire. Although in theory this is cosy, smoke can irritate the lungs – particularly if you are asthmatic.