Watch out for these winter holiday hazards if you have asthma

Winter is one of the most hazardous times of the year for the 5.4 million people in the UK living with asthma.

16 December 2016

Hospital admissions for asthma typically peak in December and January, with emergency admissions in one previous winter topping 9,000 for the month of December*. The cold weather threat is further amplified by a holiday season stuffed with allergens and triggers, all of which could cause a life-threatening asthma attack.

Falling temperatures and an abundance of cold and flu viruses are just two of the dangers that put people with asthma at heightened risk during the winter months. Out of the 1,600 people who responded to an Asthma UK survey**, 78% said their asthma symptoms were triggered by cold and damp weather, and 73% by colds and flu viruses. Over half said their asthma was made worse by second-hand cigarette smoke.

Sonia Munde, Head of Asthma UK Helpline & Nurse Manager, says: “Whether you’re out singing Christmas carols or watching the fireworks on New Year’s Eve, make sure you have your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you and that the people you’re with know what to do if you experience symptoms or have an asthma attack.”

“Plan ahead and stock up on your asthma medicines before your GP surgery or local pharmacy closes for Christmas and take note of holiday opening times. And make sure you have your asthma action plan with you at all times, even if that’s by keeping a picture of it on your mobile phone – you are four times more likely to end up in hospital if you don’t use one.”

People with asthma should also be mindful of indoor triggers. Our survey results show that the most common festive culprits include dusty decorations, scented candles, smoke from open fires and alcohol.

Sonia Munde continues: “Be aware of your triggers so you can avoid them if possible. For example, choose alcoholic drinks you know won’t aggravate your asthma at the office Christmas party, or ask your friends not to light scented candles or their open fire if you’re visiting their home.”

Anyone worried about their asthma this holiday season can find advice on Asthma UK’s dedicated website pages. To talk to an expert asthma nurse, call Asthma UK’s Helpline on 0300 222 5800 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Please note that the helpline will be closed from 4pm on 23 December and will reopen at 9am on 3 January 2017.

Top five festive asthma triggers**

  • Cold and damp weather (78%),
  • Colds and flu (73%),
  • Cigarette smoke (59%),
  • Scented candles (45%),
  • Dusty decorations (44%)

*In December 2014, 9,215 people were admitted to hospital for asthma

**Asthma UK online survey - 1,600 people completed the survey in October and November 2015.

Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact the Asthma UK media team on mediaoffice@asthma.org.uk, 020 7786 4949 (during office hours) or 07951 721393 (outside of office hours).

The Asthma UK Data Portal is a new online tool for journalists to access the latest figures and trends in asthma outcomes across the UK. Information on asthma facts and statistics can also be found on our website.

About Asthma UK

  • In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.
  • Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life threatening asthma attack.
  • For more information about asthma please visit www.asthma.org.uk