Q& A

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - ADVICE -

MANY of those who have asthma will ex­pe­ri­ence sea­sonal change or peaks and troughs in their symp­toms. For some peo­ple with asthma, the win­ter is par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic. The cold weather or sim­ply be­ing indoors and ex­posed more to house dust mites can trig­ger a flare, caus­ing cough­ing, wheez­ing and short­ness of breath.

Asthma can flare at any stage in a per­son’s life. In­creas­ing age can play a roll. As we get older, our lungs are less elas­tic, chest walls more rigid and mus­cles be­come weaker. All these things can ex­ac­er­bate breath­ing prob­lems. Other con­di­tions such as heart and lung dis­ease, Chronic Ob­struc­tive Pul­monary dis­ease (COPD) or heart fail­ure may also cause symp­toms that mimic asthma.

The at­mos­phere you live in plays a roll. Has this changed re­cently? Com­mon trig­gers in win­ter months are house dust mites, moulds, fun­gal spores, and an­i­mal dan­der. Treat­ment in­volves firstly re­duc­ing ex­po­sure to the trig­gers. Car­pets and blow heaters will har­bour and cir­cu­late dust and spores and should be avoided.

Colds or vi­ral ill­ness can be a trig­ger. We be­come more sus­cep­ti­ble to these with age and it may be nec­es­sary to tem­po­rar­ily in­crease asthma treat­ment dur­ing this time. Hav­ing an ac­tion plan in place can be very help­ful at this time. This can be agreed be­tween you and your doc­tor. Oc­ca­sion­ally it may also in­volve hav­ing steroid tablets avail­able to take if in­halers alone are not work­ing.

It is worth hav­ing a thor­ough checkup with your doc­tor to as­sess your wheeze. As you had been symp­tom-free for many years, I would think a re­assess­ment and in­ves­ti­ga­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate to rule out other con­di­tions and con­firm that your symp­toms are, in fact due, to asthma. Spirom­e­try, a chest x-ray, ECG, bloods and full exam

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