Cold weather could worsen condition affecting millions of people

Dr Ellie says to avoid using brown bags for asthma attacks

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If you are experiencing a cough, wheezing, breathlessness, and chest tightness, your asthma may be flaring up. Asthma and Lung UK points out that 5.4 million Britons are affected by the condition. The charity explains that asthma symptoms may worsen over winter due to numerous triggers around this time of year.

Examples include the cold weather, colds and flu, chest infections, and central heating.

The cold air can trigger asthma symptoms because it irritates the airways and could cause your body to produce more mucus.

“If cold air affects your asthma, there are plenty of ways you can protect your airways from the cold,” the charity says.

“[This includes] wrapping a lightweight scarf loosely around your nose and mouth when outside.”

The charity elaborates: “This warms the air you breathe in, so it’s less likely to irritate your airways.”

People spending more time indoors could also find their asthma playing up, especially if they have an open fire at home.

An open fire produces pollutants that can aggravate sensitive airways; this is also true if you have an old boiler that provides central heating.

Spotting the signs of an asthma attack

Four people die every day of an asthma attack, so it’s key to know what to do in an emergency.

Signs of an asthma attack:

  • Your blue reliever isn’t helping, or you need to use it more than every four hours
  • You’re wheezing a lot, have a very tight chest, or you’re coughing a lot
  • You’re breathless and find it difficult to walk or talk
  • Your breathing is getting faster and it feels like you can’t get your breath in properly.

Any one of these signs is indicative of an asthma attack, which needs urgent attention.

How to deal with an asthma attack:

  1. Sit up straight – try to keep calm.
  2. Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds up to 10 puffs.
  3. If you feel worse at any point or you don’t feel better after 10 puffs call 999 for an ambulance.
  4. If the ambulance has not arrived after 10 minutes and your symptoms are not improving, repeat step two.
  5. If your symptoms are no better after repeating step two, and the ambulance has still not arrived, contact 999 again immediately.

GP Dr Andy Whittamore said: “An asthma attack is a real emergency, and could be life-threatening.

“Getting help when you need it is so important, to make sure you’re treated quickly. Never think you’re wasting anyone’s time.”

Even if you have managed to prevent an asthma attack by using the blue reliever inhaler, it’s key to make an urgent same-day appointment with your doctor.

People who have asthma are encouraged to have annual asthma review at their local doctor’s clinic.

Winter triggers for asthma can also include: mould, dampness, and dust mites.

Utilising the prevention inhaler is helpful in preventing inflammation in the airways, which could lower the risk of an asthma attack.

If you’re worried about asthma attacks, you can speak to a respiratory nurse specialist.

The Asthma and Lung UK helpline is available on: 0300 222 5800; lines are open weekdays from 9am to 5pm.

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