While asthma can occur at any time of the year, it can also be more prevalent in winter. What can do you, and what should you look out for?
One in nine Australians has asthma, a respiratory condition that resulted in 39,500 hospitalisations in 2014-2015 alone. Close to 97 percent of asthmatics surveyed by Asthma Australia said a virus or the flu triggered their asthma or made their symptoms worse. With a prevalence of such illnesses in winter, it’s no wonder it can be the worst season for asthma attacks. In fact, the common cold is responsible for four out of five severe attacks.
With winter well and truly here, there’s no time like the present to ensure you’re as prepared as you can be for these colder months.
The first step to take is in the direction of your GP for a lung check to ensure your lungs are healthy. As well as having a lung check, you’re also able to voice any concerns you may have to your doctor, and they can make alterations to your medication, if necessary. Your doctor can also help you to establish your asthma action plan – a symptom and instruction guideline on how to recognise your symptoms, and actions to take in response to them. Updating it may freshen your memory on how to stop a small attack from developing into a serious one.
One of the most critical aspects of treatment for asthma, particularly in winter, is taking note of how often you’re having asthma symptoms, and how regularly you use your reliever puffer. If you notice you require it more than twice a week, or you’re symptomatic at night, consult your doctor. They may suggest adjusting your medication or may introduce preventer medication if you don’t already have it. At your appointment, it may also be helpful to brush up on correct inhaling techniques to ensure you’re getting as much medicine as possible with each use.
If you are over 65, being prepared over winter as an asthmatic is important, as well. Never ignore symptoms of a cold or flu, ask your doctor about the flu vaccine, and see your doctor to ensure you’re on the best medication for your needs.
Most importantly, take preventative measures to make winter as comfortable for you as possible. Stay away from people with cold and flu viruses, wash your hands regularly, and limit breathing in cold air if it triggers your asthma.
If you have asthma and you’re struggling with symptoms due to winter conditions or illnesses, refer to your asthma plan, stay on top of your medication, and book a consultation with your GP.
For more tips on avoiding triggers this winter visit National Asthma Council Australia.