Prevent asthma from worsening
Asthma is an epidemic in the making. India has witnessed a 43% increase in the incidence of asthma since 2013. A major cause of concern is the growing rate of pollution in our country. According to a recent report, 13 of the most polluted cities globally out of 20 are in India. One of the major health problems caused due to pollution is asthma, a condition in which there is narrowing of the airways that swell and produce excess mucous. This leads to difficulty in breathing and may sometimes be life-threatening.
Cold or damp air can enter the airways and trigger respiratory muscle spasm, causing asthma symptoms. Moreover, cold weather is associated with an increase in the number of moulds and spores in the air which may trigger an attack of asthma. The anatomy of the human airway is such that it is layered by a thin layer of fluid. During winter, we breathe in cold, dry air, due to which the fluid in the airway evaporates faster than it is replaced. Constant dryness causes irritation and swelling of the airway, which may not be a problem for normal individuals, but can be a chief cause of worsening of symptoms in asthmatic individuals. Also, there is a layer of protective mucous in our airways, which function to remove foreign bodies/ dust particles. In winter, the layer of mucous is thicker and stickier than in warm weather, which may predispose an individual to cold and other infections. Congestion of the sinuses due to common cold or flu that is caused by viruses that are prevalent in high numbers in winter season may also be responsible for triggering asthma. Respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza viruses are exclusively present during the winter and early spring seasons. Allergens in our homes and in the environment such as pollen, dust mites, animal dander, damp walls which harbour fungal spores etc are responsible for allergic asthma. Although allergic asthma can occur in any season, during winter, saturation of both indoor and outdoor allergens occurs which can trigger more frequent episodes of asthma. Exercise has also been reported to increase incidence of asthma. This does not mean that an asthmatic individual should refrain from exercising. They should stick to moderate intensity exercises and plan their workouts in a manner that does not require them to commute long distances in the cold.
Prevention is Best
What can be done to avoid triggering of asthma symptoms in winter: Do not forget to carry your inhalational medication as prescribed by your doctor. There may be an increase in the frequency of attacks and therefore increased requirement of medication. Talk to your doctor about dose adjustment to avoid side effects. Stay hydrated to keep the mucous in the airway thinner and therefore easier to clean. Maintain indoor hygiene. Vacuum and dust your home routinely. Change bed sheets and pillow cases regularly. Ensure that your car is clean too. Air vents in cars and upholstery are a hub of infection which can trigger your asthma attack. Try to avoid people who are unwell. Viral infections are contagious. Talk to your doctor about preventive flu vaccination (if necessary). Maintaining hygiene of pets is also important. Take particular care of shed animal hair/ fur which when inhaled can worsen your symptoms. Eat warm foods and dress to protect yourself from the chill weather.
Do not forget to carry your inhalational medication as prescribed by your doctor. Stay hydrated to keep the mucous in the airway thinner and therefore easier to clean.