Deal with ALL your winter asthma triggers with just TWO tips
Lots of people find their asthma symptoms get worse over winter because there are more triggers around at this time of year – including chilly weather, colds, mould and chest infections. So, if you’re coughing more, or your chest is tighter at the moment, you’re not alone.
But you don’t have to put up with winter asthma symptoms.
"You might be surprised to know that most people with asthma should be able to live symptom-free – even in winter," says Caroline, Asthma UK Helpline nurse. "The two easy tips below have worked time and time again for our callers, so why not try them?"
Act now to stay well throughout winter and avoid missing work, family life, festive season parties, or even Christmas Day.
Two easy ways to tackle your winter asthma triggers
1. Take your preventer inhaler daily as prescribed
If you’ve got asthma, your airways are sensitive and irritable. They react to triggers like cold air by tightening up and making it hard to breathe.
Using your preventer inhaler as prescribed soothes your airways over time, so they’re less sensitive. That means they’re less likely to react to any of your winter asthma triggers – so you can get on with life.
Find it hard to remember? "Set a phone reminder, or try putting your preventer inhaler somewhere you’ll see it, like your bedside table," says Caroline. Read our blog for more help remembering your medicines.
2. Keep your reliever inhaler with you at all times
Always carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you in case you need it in an emergency.
Take it if you get sudden symptoms because your airways have tightened up in reaction to a trigger.
Your reliever inhaler quickly opens up your airways, relaxing them so you can breathe more easily again within minutes.
But it’s only an emergency fix. It doesn’t stop your airways being so sensitive that they react to the triggers in the first place – you need to take your preventer inhaler regularly as prescribed for that.
Top tip: keep your reliever inhaler with your keys, ready to pick up when you leave the house.
Extra ideas to deal with your unique winter triggers
"Everyone with asthma has their own mix of triggers and some are tricky to avoid, like cold air or cold viruses," says Caroline.
That’s why taking your preventer inhaler is a good catch-all – it helps deal with all your triggers at once by stopping your airways being so sensitive. But if one of your triggers causes you real problems, there are extra things you can add in on top of using your medicines.
"Here are some of the most common winter triggers we get calls and messages about," says Caroline, "and some easy tips you can try, to deal with them."
Cold or damp air
Wear a #Scarfie! Just wrap a lightweight scarf loosely around your nose and mouth – it warms the air you breathe in so it’s less likely to irritate your airways.
Colds and flu
The flu vaccination is your best bet for avoiding this nasty virus. Colds are harder to avoid so taking your preventer inhaler is your easiest option.
Chest infections are often extra rubbish for people with asthma because they cause more inflammation in the lungs. The trick is – you guessed it – taking your preventer inhaler to help deal with the inflammation.
Mould spore allergy
Mould is more likely to grow indoors during wet weather. If your allergy to mould is triggering asthma symptoms, ask your doctor or nurse about taking anti-histamines.
Real and artificial Christmas trees
Real Christmas trees host mould too, so if that triggers your asthma choose a fake one. However, artificial Christmas trees carry their own triggers – sometimes mould grows when they’re kept in storage, and they can get dusty. Try wiping the plastic leaves and any decorations with a damp cloth.
This time of year is full of different treats which could cause asthma symptoms. Mulled wine, pigs in blankets and other processed foods contain sulphites which lots of people with asthma are sensitive to. Food allergies are even more serious – so if you have a serious allergy, e.g. from peanuts, follow your allergy and asthma action plan.
Christmas stress and anxiety
If stress triggers your asthma, make sure you use it as an excuse to chill out over the Christmas season! Go for a walk, have a bath or do whatever helps you to relax.
Dust mites allergy
Dust mites love central heating and can multiply in the winter. Ask your doctor or asthma nurse if they think anti-histamines could help.
Open fires and wood burning stoves
Getting your chimney swept regularly may help to get more smoke and pollution particles out of the room so they affect your asthma symptoms less.