Article by Dr. Pavan Yadav, Consultant – Interventional Pulmonology, Sleep Medicine, and Lung Transplantation, Aster RV Hospital
During the winter months, colds, flu, and other respiratory illnesses are quite common. These infections have also been linked to an increase in asthma symptoms. When an asthmatic inhales cold, dry air, the muscles in the lungs may spasm in an attempt to keep the airways open. This irritates the airway lining, even more, resulting in coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Asthma symptoms and flare-ups can be triggered by chilly air, especially when it is dry. The dryness of cold air can cause breathing issues for many persons with asthma. Some of the symptoms are coughing, whether dry or with phlegm, wheezing, especially while exhaling, shortness of breath, and stiffness in the chest. Symptoms might also be triggered by cold air combined with windy circumstances. The more severe your asthma is, the more likely you are to be affected by cold air.
Tips to manage asthma during winter:
- Before the winter approaches, make sure your asthma is under control. Consult your doctor to create an asthma action plan, and then follow your doctor’s instructions for taking the medications he or she recommends.
- If you plan to exercise outside in chilly weather, use your inhaler 15 to 30 minutes before you start. This opens up your airways, allowing you to breathe more easily. Carry an inhaler with you at all times in case of an asthma attack. Warm-up for at least 10 to 15 minutes before exercising, and keep your face warm by using a mask or scarf.
- Make use of humidifiers in your home. Keep them mould-free, and if dust mites and mould are causing your problems, keep your house cold and dry to prevent their growth. Filters in your heating and cooling air ducts should be cleaned and replaced on a regular basis. Ensure that filters are cleaned at the start of each season. Check on a regular basis to ensure that the interior air quality is optimal.
- If you are sensitive to pet dander, limit your time with them. Maintain a pet-free environment in your room.
- Hands should be washed often using a hand sanitizer or washing with soap for 20 seconds to avoid transmitting germs.
Refer to the asthma action plan you created with your doctor if you start to wheeze or feel short of breath. Other basic recommendations for what to do if you experience an asthma attack include: Using a quick-acting rescue inhaler, take two to six puffs. The drug should help you breathe more easily by opening up your airways. Instead of an inhaler, you might be able to utilise a nebulizer. A nebulizer is a device that converts your medicine into a tiny mist that you inhale. Wait 20 minutes before taking another dosage if your symptoms aren’t severe but don’t improve after the first few puffs from your inhaler and call your doctor as soon as you feel better.
Despite the fact that winter eliminates seasonal pollen allergies, millions of people suffer from additional winter allergies as a result of their inactivity. In the winter, distinguishing between an allergy and a cold might be difficult. In both cases, sneezing, a runny nose, and congestion are frequent symptoms. Allergies, on the other hand, are the immune system’s reaction to an irritant or trigger, whereas colds are viral infections. Winter allergens, including moulds, dust mites, and animal dander, can cause illness in the house. Airborne dust comprising lint, fabric fibre, microorganisms, food stuff, and animal dander is circulated by forced-air furnaces. House dust mites, animal dander, and cockroach droppings are three of the most frequent allergens, and they all worsen in the winter when there is less ventilation causing allergies.
Following are some tips to minimize allergen exposure:
- Use a humidifier to lessen dryness in the air as dust mites and mould grow at humidity above 60% and temperatures between 60- and 85-degrees Fahrenheit.
- Avoid using wall-to-wall carpeting, which creates a breeding ground for dust mites. Instead, use area rugs.
- Cleaning, dusting, and vacuuming should be done on a regular basis, preferably using a vacuum equipped with a high-efficiency particle air filter. Wash linens regularly in hot water to kill dust mites at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and use hypoallergenic coverings for mattresses and pillows to keep dust mites contained.
- Bathe pets once a week to reduce dander, but not more frequently, since too frequent bathing can dry up a pet’s hair and skin and keep animals out of the bedroom of anybody in the family who has allergies.
- Consult your doctor and pharmacist to see whether using any over-the-counter medicine is appropriate for your symptoms and any adverse effects.