If you’re asthmatic you may already be dreading winter. Why? Because the cold weather can make symptoms – such as breathlessness, wheezing, coughing and chest tightening – worse and even trigger an attack, which can be frightening and even fatal.
‘Breathing in dry, cold air can irritate your airways and make it harder for your lungs to function properly, making it harder to breathe. If you have asthma you’re especially sensitive to these changes in temperature so may have a particularly strong reaction to it, such as severe breathlessness or even an asthma attack,’ says ZoomDoc GP Dr Sohini Kar.
Fortunately, UK asthma charity, Asthma + Lung says ‘your asthma is less likely to be triggered by cold weather if it’s well controlled.’
With that in mind, here are some effective ways to help your asthma this winter and hopefully avoid having an asthma attack.
- Be prepared
Controlling your asthma is key so make sure you follow your own personal asthma action plan and use or take your prescribed medication (inhalers, tablets, steroids) regularly and correctly. This is vital for staying on top of it during the winter months.
If your child has asthma, Asthma+Lung recommends giving their ‘school a named spare reliever inhaler and spacer for your child to use if their asthma symptoms come on at playtime or during PE.’
- See your doctor
If you haven’t seen your GP recently about your asthma, the NHS advises visiting ‘a doctor or asthma nurse at least once a year for a check-up and to discuss your treatment.’
If you’ve seen your doctor recently but your asthma symptoms get worse, ‘make an urgent appointment to see a GP or asthma nurse,’ it adds.
Struggling to get an appointment? ZoomDoc GPs can help with asthma medication advice and prescriptions via video call. SImply download our app and arrange an appointment to suit you for just £35.
- Have your flu jab
According to Asthma+Lung, 75% of people with asthma say their symptoms get worse when they have a cold or the flu. It also increases your risk of an asthma attack.
That’s why some asthma sufferers are eligible for a free flu jab every winter. Have yours as soon as possible so that you’re fully protected by the time flu season takes hold. If you’re severely asthmatic, talk to your doctor as it may not be recommended.
Children with asthma will be given the vaccine as a nasal spray. However, if they’re particularly wheezy they may need to have it in injection form instead.
- Keep warm and dry
Asthma experts recommend keeping warm and arming yourself with cold or wet weather gear when you’re out, for example always having a scarf, hat and umbrella with you.
Breathing into a scarf wrapped around your nose and mouth will help keep your breath warm and therefore less of an irritant to your lungs.
- Avoid your triggers
As well as cold weather and viruses (already mentioned) other triggers can include:
- cigarette smoke
- pets or animals
- allergens such as dust or mould
- medicines, such as aspirin and ibuprofen
- rigorous exercise.
If you do know what triggers yours, avoiding it or them can be a huge help in controlling symptoms.
If you or your child have severe asthma triggered by something specific or any severe allergy, it’s worth carrying a medical certificate confirming this.
ZoomDoc can provide you with a same-day medical certificate detailing the exact allergen, the signs of the allergic reaction, what you need to avoid, plus the medications you require to have on standby. No appointment is needed – simply apply online here.
What to do if you’re having an asthma attack
If you (or someone with you) have an attack, follow this NHS advice and don’t be afraid to call 999 in an emergency:
- Sit up straight – try to keep calm.
- Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30 to 60 seconds up to 10 puffs.
- If you feel worse at any point, or you do not feel better after 10 puffs, call 999 for an ambulance.
- If the ambulance has not arrived after 10 minutes and your symptoms are not improving, repeat step 2.
- If your symptoms are no better after repeating step 2, and the ambulance has still not arrived, contact 999 again immediately.