Breathe Easily: Winter Asthma Advice
People with asthma need extra TLC during cold and flu season. WebMD goes to the experts for advice on staying healthy all winter long.
Because many patients feel better in warm weather, by the time fall and winter roll around they may see less of a need to take the drugs designed to control their asthma symptoms. But this, says Field, is a huge mistake.
"If there is any time of the year to be more compliant about your medication, it's certainly the start of the winter season," he says.
The new NHLBI report recommends the use of daily inhaled corticosteroid medications to prevent problems in young children during cold and flu season.
Your Winter Asthma Action Plan
Another way to avoid problems -- during the winter or anytime -- is to create and stick to an asthma action plan. This is an organized system of care that can help you triage your symptoms in the event a problem does occur.
According to the American Lung Association, your plan should include not only a list of the asthma triggers you need to avoid, but also the specific symptoms you need to be on the lookout for, such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.
The plan should also list your regular medications, the symptoms they control, and most important, what to do and what to take in the event of an asthma emergency.
"You should always have on hand one or more fast-acting medications, drugs you know you can take for immediate relief," says Field.
You should also make a habit of using your peak flow meter. This is a device designed to monitor how well your asthma is doing. It measures your ability to forcefully expel air from the lungs, and experts say using one regularly can help you head off a potential crisis regardless of the season.
"By remaining aware of your peak flow meter readings on a regular basis, you will know when you are headed for trouble before you get there. And that means your doctor can prescribe additional medications, such as steroids, to offset any major asthma events before a cold or flu has a chance to take hold," says Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director of the Breath and Lung Institute, Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.