Dealing With Winter Asthma

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  • By Robin Westen

    Approximately 25 million Americans suffer with asthma symptoms, and for many the cold dry air of winter and the likelihood of picking up a respiratory infection can make matters worse. These tips will help prevent winter asthma woes.
  • Get a Flu Shot Even though having asthma doesn’t make you more susceptible to getting the virus, if you do get the flu, your asthma symptoms may worsen. If you haven’t gotten one yet, opt for the shot with the inactivated virus, not the spray form that contains the live virus. Your doctor may also recommend that you get a pneumonia vaccine.
  • Wash Hands Frequently Using soap and water is the number-one defense against catching a cold or virus. You can also use hand sanitizers and moist towelettes, but make sure they’re alcohol-based.
  • Avoid Fireplaces Sure, they’re cozy. But fireplaces can trigger asthma symptoms. Burning wood is like burning tobacco. In other words, smoke is smoke. Asthma sufferers are especially susceptible to the irritation it causes the lungs.
  • Shut Your Mouth Shut your mouth. Ideally, you want to breathe through your nose, not your mouth when you’re out in the cold because the nose warms up the air for your lungs. Wear a scarf or muffler. Make sure it fits over your nose and mouth. These cold-weather items can humidify the air you breathe and help prevent the dryness that can trigger an attack
  • Replace Filters Your home heating system may blow dust and debris throughout your house. It’s important to clean and replace filters before turning on your system so you can eliminate the bad stuff.
  • Exercise Indoors When it’s brutal outside, especially on windy days, go to the gym instead of exercising outside. If you still want to exercise in the fresh cold air, choose mid afternoon when it’s likely to be warmer.

    Robih Westen is ThirdAge's Medical Director. Check for her daily updates. Her latest book, co-writteh with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V is for Vagina."