Asthma and Allergy in winters

As the cold season rolls in, nagging colds and incorrigible flu follow the bandwagon. And this concern of cold and flu gets more stressful for those suffering from Asthma. This time of the year is extra taxing on the respiratory system of asthma patients, as a simple cold or cough can trigger an asthma attack.

In asthma, the lungs are already irritated along with being more sensitive and reactive, thus enabling even the most common allergens to trigger an attack. Therefore, the onset of virus causing flu and cold has a larger impact on the lungs, along with a tendency to trigger a debilitating asthma attack.

Winter weather forces you to spend more time indoors. Cold air doesn’t cause cold but triggers respiratory problems as the air is heavy, the allergens tend to hang low and one becomes susceptible to cold and coughs. Dust mites, animal dander, indoor moulds, pollen etc. irritants are also some of the triggers. Although they don’t cause an allergic reaction, they irritate an already inflamed airway in asthma patients.

According to Dr Snehal Shroff, Family Physician, Shroff Clinic, Juhu, Mumbai, “Since the allergens in the air enter through the nose they cause nasal congestion. This slowly turns into a chest congestion and has the possibility of triggering an asthma attack. Therefore, it is important to treat nasal congestion at the earliest.”
When the respiratory system is functioning properly, the mucus that coats the entire respiratory system also transports freely. However, due to the inhalation of chemicals and cigarette smoke, cold air can make the mucus blanket vulnerable to infection. Although the mucus is produced, the inhalation of cold air causes the mucus blanket to thicken, slowing the process of washing the trapped particles. Further, this mucus in the nose becomes thicker with an increase in the production of it, thus, causing nasal congestion and stuffiness. In addition, when the cold air reaches the lungs it responds by releasing histamine, which in turn causes wheezing and other respiratory issues, especially in asthma sufferers.

However, asthma doesn’t need to ground you and restrict your movements, there are several ways you can manage your asthma in winter. Here are four essentials you must follow.

Keep warm

Try and keep your nose and mouth covered when you travel. Covering your mouth and nose with a scarf can help you reduce the inhalation of pollution and keep away coughing or sneezing fits during travel. Investing in a dehumidifier to keep your surroundings warm and reduce the dust particles in the air can also help you keep away the serious situations.

Exercise

Instead of going for a walk on a foggy day or a misty morning, try and change your routine to incorporate indoor exercises. The cold air can cause breathlessness while exercising, which can put pressure on the lungs and hamper your routine. Also, try and breathe through your nose and not your mouth, as the hair in your nose helps get rid of irritants. According to Saurabh Kulkarni, Strength and condition coach, HEAL institute, Mumbai, “Exercise is important as it helps keep the body active and warm. Swimming is a recommended exercise as the lungs get expanded through strong inhalation and exhalation movements.”

Avoid Exposure

Since, the festive season is around the corner, the house will be turned upside down to get the cleaning done. While this is a noble venture, during this time the allergens in the house are at peak. The respiratory system is already vulnerable in the winter months and the cleaning process adds a load on to it. It is advisable to stay away from home during this time. “Even though I would like to help at home during this period, it becomes difficult to breathe because of the dust flying around. Also due to the air being smoggy and polluted, cold and flu are a common thing,” said Gayatri Singh 23, who was diagnosed at age 7.

Eat right

It is important to supplement your medications and action plan with the right diet. Include fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet because they are filled with anti-oxidants, which help in detoxifying the body. Also, they have anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce the swelling and inflammation of the lungs. Further, they are light on the stomach and keep you full along with maintaining a healthy weight, all of which helps you stay strong, and control asthma.

Nasal allergies tend to spiral out of control during the winter season, which invariably turns into an asthma attack, even though the disease has been dormant over the previous few months. It is essential to stay aware and cautious about the symptoms so that you can control the outburst and enjoy the celebrations around you.

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