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For some people with asthma, the spring and fall can bring unwanted attacks. But winter presents its own challenges. “Unlike the spring and fall, when there are challenges from seasonal changes and pollen counts, the winter has an increase in viruses, including common cold viruses, influenza and other respiratory viruses,” says David Myers, M.D., a pulmonologist on the medical staff of Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano. “In addition, the cold air can be a trigger for asthma exacerbations and attacks.”
Fortunately, there are steps that people with asthma can take to reduce their risk of an attack.
1. Take your medications as prescribed.
“Controller medication regimens should include an inhaled anti-inflammatory, called a corticosteroid, and most include a long-acting bronchodilator,” Dr. Myers explains. The anti-inflammatory reduces swelling in the airways, making them less prone to react to a trigger, while bronchodilators work to open the airways to improve breathing.
“Asthma patients need to understand how their medications are intended to be used — and use them that way,” Dr. Myers says. Controller medications, he adds, need to be taken consistently to be most effective. “It’s not the kind of medication you can take just when you think you need it,” he says. And always have a rescue inhaler nearby just in case.
2. Get your flu shot.
Because the flu can be a trigger for an attack, being up-to-date on the influenza vaccine is important, Dr. Myers notes.
3. Stay away from people who are sick.
“Avoid people who have an upper respiratory illness,” he says. By reducing your exposure to disease, you lower your risk for an attack.
4. Dress for the cold.
“The very act of walking outside or exerting yourself on a cold day can lead to difficulty breathing,” Dr. Myers says. Dress warmly with a coat and scarf.
5. Know when to call your doctor.
“It’s important that people with asthma not minimize their symptoms,” Dr. Myers explains. “If they’re having to consistently use their rescue inhaler, it’s time to contact a physician.”
Baylor Plano is here to help people with asthma and allergies get the support and care they need. Learn more about how Baylor Plano can help you manage your asthma. For a referral to a physician who can help, click here.
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