Asthma affects about 25 million people in the United States. Unfortunately, asthma can get worse during the winter season as cold and flu viruses spread. The lungs are already sensitive, and a respiratory illness can trigger asthma attacks easily. With exposure to triggers, the airways become inflamed, the surrounding muscles tighten, and more mucus develops, making it difficult to breathe. Learn how to prevent asthma attacks, and have an asthma action plan for the cold winter season.
Preventing Asthma Attacks
The cold weather itself could make your asthma problems worse, but there are ways you can take control of your asthma to decrease the risk of an attack. First, talk with your doctor about what you can do to stay healthy. Be sure to consistently take any prescribed medications and avoid any triggers. Use a peak flow meter to monitor your breathing and catch the first signs of a problem. If you experience any worsening symptoms, visit your doctor. Stay away from people who are sick, and keep yourself healthy during cold and flu season. Follow your asthma treatment plan to breathe your best.
Your Asthma Action Plan
Visit with your asthma health care team to manage your condition and come up with an asthma action plan. Keep a list of your asthma triggers and stay away from them as much as possible. If you experience shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, mild chest tightening, or difficulty sleeping or performing usual activities, take prescribed medication and visit your doctor to ease these symptoms.
If symptoms worsen or come on all at once, you may be having an asthma attack. During a flare-up, air passages narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include rapid breathing, protruding rib cage, chest tightening, inability to walk or talk, blue lips or fingernails, and wheezing. If you are having trouble breathing, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department. During an attack, follow your asthma action plan, try to stay calm, and take long, deep breaths. Sit upright to breathe easier and move away from the asthma trigger.
In the event of an asthma emergency, go to your nearest CHI St. Luke’s Health Emergency Department for quality care when minutes matter.