My Weekly Special


DEALING WITH ASTHMA IN THE WINTER MONTHS Dr Philippa outlines the causes and treatment for this common condition


QI live in the north of the UK and although it gets cold everywhere in the winter it gets really cold here! I have asthma and have noticed that while it is OK in the summer, it gets worse when the weather gets cold in the winter. Why is this?

AAsthma is a common respirator­y condition in which the small airways of the lungs are inflamed and narrowed and produce more mucus than usual. You are right, asthma commonly does get worse during the colder months.

There are lots of reasons why this might happen. The first is that there are more cough and cold viruses around in the winter months, which spread easily as we are all inside in close proximity to each other. You might notice that your asthma symptoms are worse when you have a cold, viral flu-like illness, or chest infection. This worsening occurs in about three quarters of people with asthma. Being inside for more of the day in the winter months means that you may be exposed to indoor triggers such as pollutants from a wood burning stove, so try to keep your home well ventilated.

The colder temperatur­es in winter can also worsen your symptoms, with some people with asthma noticing that their symptoms are worse when they go outside into the cold air. This is because the cold can make your airways constrict, leading to a flare-up of symptoms. If you notice that this is a trigger for you be sure to wrap up warmly.

Even lightly wrapping a scarf around your mouth and nose may help, as it helps warm the air before your breathe it into your lungs. But don’t wrap it too tightly – we are trying to help you breathe, not get strangled in a scarf!

Remember that if you have asthma and are prescribed a steroid inhaler or take oral steroids as part of your asthma treatment, you are eligible for a free NHS flu vaccinatio­n.

There are possible triggers indoors and outdoors in colder weather

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