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
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
"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.