For many asthmatics, the winter season can be tough for several reasons. The cold air and inevitable common cold respiratory viruses are the most notable reasons why winter is challenging for those with asthma – any type of asthma!
If you have asthma, and even if you don’t, here are some good tips to make your winter season a healthy one!
- Wash your hands – This simple method is the best for avoiding the common cold respiratory viruses. The most effective way of washing your hands is with warm water and soap, but using antibacterial hand sanitizer can be as effective.
- Get the FLU vaccine – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommends that all people at or above 6-months old get the flu vaccine. Yes, it may not cover ALL the flu strains; however, the vaccine provides protection from the most dangerous ones. As an asthmatic, if you contract the flu virus, you are at much higher risk. The injectable form of the flu vaccine is preferred.
- Avoid the cold air– Cold air is a known trigger for asthmatic airways, causing wheezing and cough. We are not saying to stop enjoying winter activities with your families! But, protect your lungs by breathing through your NOSE. Humans are designed to breathe through the nose – the nose humidifies, cleans, and WARMS the air before it travels down into our lungs. Wearing scarves or mufflers over your nose and mouth also helps! If you are a runner, running indoors is advisable. If you love to run outdoors – just remember to warm up prior, wear a scarf or muffler, and pretreat with your bronchodilator (Albuterol) 10-15 min before you go running.
- Avoid burning wood - We have found in our asthma patients that their symptoms tend to flare when sitting near a wood burning fireplace/stove. Smoke and fumes are a strong irritant for vulnerable asthmatic airways. It’s similar to breathing in secondhand tobacco smoke.
- Clean/replace your air filters - Many asthmatics have noted that their symptoms flare when their central heating kicks up once the cold season arrives. The forced-air heating blows out dust and other airborne debris (pet dander, mold, pollutants) – these can be strong irritants for asthmatic airways, causing wheeze and cough.
- Set an Action Plan with your physician – It is important to discuss with your doctor how to prevent asthma flares before entering the winter season. Maintenance/preventative asthma inhaler treatment and dose adjustments during viral respiratory infections are usually recommended, but these are individualized based on the historical course of your asthma.
- Be on top of your asthma management – Please follow the medication and management plan you and your doctor have discussed and agreed upon. This is to prevent asthma exacerbations during a known troubling season. And please call your doctor if you do experience a flare of your asthma, even if it’s not severe. The earlier you address your symptoms under your physician’s care, the better off you will be! This will prevent exacerbations that can lead to emergency room or urgent care visits, which usually occur on weekends or in the middle of the night.
If you have more questions or concerns about your asthma and the various triggers that winter can bring, contact the asthma specialists at Advanced Specialty Care. We have offices in the Fairfield County, CT towns of Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk and Ridgefield.
- Dr. Purvi Shah