Managing asthma and respiratory problems this winter

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AsthmaticAsthma attacks and other symptoms of asthma can become more prevalent and severe during the winter months. Local NHS organisations in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are recommending that people with asthma take the necessary steps to prevent their symptoms from worsening this winter.

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties. It often starts in childhood, but can affect people of all ages. The main symptoms of asthma are:

  • wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing)
  • breathlessness
  • a tight chest, which may feel like a band is tightening around it
  • coughing

When these symptoms become temporarily worse, this is known as an asthma attack.

Anna Murphy, Consultant Respiratory Pharmacist, University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust said: “Asthma and other respiratory symptoms can become worse and more prominent in winter because cold air causes your airway to spasm. It is important that people with asthma and other respiratory conditions are aware of this and are always prepared to deal with worse symptoms in cold conditions.”

How cold weather affects asthma

How to avoid cold-related asthma attacks

  • Keep taking your preventer inhaler (usually steroid inhaler) as prescribed by your doctor
  • Carry your reliever inhaler with you at all times
  • If you are unsure how to use your inhaler, please seek advice from a healthcare professional
  • Wear gloves, a scarf and a hat, and don’t forget your umbrella
  • When outside wrap a scarf loosely around your nose and mouth, this will help to warm the air before you breathe it in
  • Go for regular asthma reviews with your GP.

Inhalers for asthma and COPD

Inhalers are usually prescribed for patients with asthma and other respiratory conditions, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). This is because they are effective at delivering medication directly to the lungs. Having the correct inhaler technique is important to ensure you get the maximum benefits from the medication prescribed for you.

Visit the Asthma UK website to see their videos on how to use your inhaler.

Flu and asthma

Dr Y. B. Shah, a GP from Leicestershire said: “If you have asthma, you should do everything you can to avoid getting sick as colds and the flu can cause your asthma to get worse. It is recommended that you get your flu jab if you have not already done so – many people with long term conditions such as asthma are eligible for a free vaccination.”