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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.
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Asthma and Cold Medicines: What You Should Know continued...

So what, if anything, can you safely use? Both Field and Popovitch suggest talking to your doctor about local treatment with a nasal spray. Field says if your doctor agrees, you can try either a decongestant nasal spray or a plain saline nasal spray for relief.

Horovitz favors home remedies like a vaporizer or humidifier to hydrate the air and help make breathing easier.

Perhaps most important: All the experts WebMD talked to warn never to depend on any cold or flu medicine to control your asthma symptoms.

"Your regularly scheduled asthma treatments remain the backbone plan for keeping symptoms under control. Think of it as wearing a seatbelt or tying your shoes. And they should not be skipped or missed, regardless of what else you may be doing to treat your cold or flu," Field says.

Winter Asthma Rescue Remedies

Even if you follow all the rules, a cold or flu can still cause asthma symptoms to spin out of control. For this reason, it's essential to be prepared with a rescue emergency kit -- and know how to use it.

"For patients with asthma, the weakest time is usually between 3 and 4 in the morning. So if you have a cold or the flu, it's essential that you keep a rescue inhaler next to your bed and know how to best use it for your symptoms," says Zafarlotfi. The inhaler can contain any number of fast-acting medications that work immediately to open up the airways and make it easier to breathe.

She also advocates talking to your doctor about other types of medications, such as corticosteroids, that can be used in an emergency, and whether or not you need to have those on hand during cold and flu season.

Field also suggests talking to your doctor about using a nebulizer treatment before bedtime. This is a device that changes liquid asthma medication into a fine mist so it can be easily inhaled. If a cough is keeping you up a night, he says a nebulizer treatment before bedtime can open the lungs and help you feel more comfortable.

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