Trouble breathing? Breathe easier, even if you’ve got asthma or COPD
Check out these tips for when winter takes your breath away.
If you have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or any other chronic respiratory illness, wintertime can leave you wheezing and feeling breathless. Cold air can irritate your airways and trigger a bronchospasm, a sudden constriction of the walls in the lung’s bronchioles.
That doesn’t mean you can’t exercise or enjoy the outdoors this time of year. Follow these tips from the American Lung Association to help you overcome trouble breathing this season:
1. Use your rescue inhaler 10 to 15 minutes prior to exercise.
Keep your rescue inhaler with you at all times. It’s a good idea to have multiple inhalers; keep one at home, one in your car or bag.
2. Take all of your prescribed medications regularly
Talk to your doctor if your asthma or COPD is not well-controlled.
3. Breathe through your nose whenever possible.
Our nasal passages naturally warm and humidify the air. If you’re chronically stuffed up, talk to your doctor about sprays that might help. And if you tend to breathe through your mouth during exercise, see our next tip.
4. Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf or cold-weather mask.
The lightweight material won’t hinder your workout, but it will warm and humidify the air.
5. If you’re having difficulties, limit strenuous workouts to indoors.
Invite a friend to the gym to up the fun factor, or take a new class.
The cold-weather season also brings along viruses, which can trigger asthma or COPD exacerbations.
Practice good hand hygiene to prevent getting or spreading a cold or the flu. “Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth when you are out in public places and can’t wash your hands regularly,” says Andrew S. Nickels, M.D., of Vanderbilt Asthma, Sinus and Allergy Program.
Another very important step is to get the flu vaccine every year, Nickels adds. He recommends that people with asthma also get the Pneumococcal vaccine at least once.
“If you have symptoms that may be signs of the flu (like fevers/chills, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, or fatigue),” Nickels says, “you should call your doctor within 48 hours of your symptoms developing, as there is an anti-viral medication that can make the flu more mild and not last as long.”