Health Fo­cus

Pre­vent asthma from wors­en­ing

Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS - DR ARVIND KATE Pul­mo­nolo­gist, Zen Multi Spe­cial­ity Hospi­tal, Mum­bai

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.

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