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.
Your Winter Asthma Action Plan continued...
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.
The American Lung Association also advises patients to classify their peak
flow meter readings and their symptoms into three zones -- and use them as a
guide to determine how well your asthma is under control.
The three zones are:
- Green Zone: Peak flow reading of 80%-100% of your usual
"personal best" peak flow reading. The green zone indicates good asthma
- Yellow Zone: Peak flow reading of 50%-80% of your usual peak flow
reading. This indicates that your asthma control is not optimal. You may or may
not notice symptoms such as cough or wheezing. Your asthma needs to be addressed
according to the asthma action plan set up by you and your doctor.
- Red Zone: Peak flow reading of less than 50% of your usual reading.
This indicates poor asthma control needing rescue medications. Make sure to
follow your asthma plan regarding use of rescue drugs and seeking medical
Particularly during cold and flu season, the American Lung Association
recommends that you strive to remain in the green zone and contact your doctor
as soon as you begin dropping into the yellow zone.
Asthma and Cold Medicines: What You Should Know
If you do find yourself with a cold or the flu, there is an abundance of
over-the-counter medications that can help. But experts advise asthma patients
to take some extra precautions and talk to their doctor before deciding what
treatment to use. The reason: some over-the-counter medications can be