Thursday, 25 November 2010

Advice for people with asthma as temperatures set to plummet

Asthma UK is today urging people with asthma to prepare themselves for the extreme cold weather as Britain braces itself for temperatures reaching as low as -5C this week.

Cold weather can have a severe impact on the 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK. Three quarters of people with asthma tell us that cold air is a trigger for their symptoms and 90% highlighted that having a cold or flu makes their asthma considerably worse.

Cher Piddock, lead nurse for Asthma UK says: ‘Hospital admissions for asthma traditionally peak during periods of particularly cold weather. This can be due to breathing cold air into the lungs which can in turn trigger asthma, as well as picking up colds and flu.

‘People whose asthma is well-controlled are more likely to be able to withstand the dangers of winter months and you can help keep your asthma under control by making sure you have a regular asthma review with your doctor or asthma nurse and that you have a personal asthma action plan. This is a plan which should be completed by your doctor or asthma nurse in discussion with you, and contains the information you need to manage your asthma, including information about your medicines, key things to tell you when your asthma is getting worse and what you should do about it, as well as emergency information on what to do if you have an asthma attack.’

To help minimise the need to go to hospital during this cold spell, Asthma UK is offering the following important advice about how to control asthma symptoms during the cold weather.

5 tips for keeping asthma at bay as the weather gets colder
Asthma UK recommends:

  1. Keep taking your regular preventer medicines as prescribed by your doctor
  2. If you know that cold air triggers your asthma, take one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler before going outside
  3. Keep your blue reliever inhaler with you at all times
  4. Wrap up well and wear a scarf over your nose and mouth – this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in
  5. Take extra care when exercising in cold weather. Warm up for 10–15 minutes and take one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler before you start.

You might be having an asthma attack if: you are coughing more than usual, experiencing shortness of breath, wheezing, feeling tightness in the chest, having difficulty speaking in full sentences

The steps to take if you are having an asthma attack:

  • Keep calm – do not panic
  • Sit down and try to take slow steady breaths
  • Take one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler (usually blue), immediately

If there is no improvement – Continue to take two puffs of your reliever inhaler every two minutes. You should take up to ten puffs.

Call 999 urgently if:
  • your symptoms do not improve in 5 – 10 minutes
  • you are too breathless to talk
  • you are worried at any time

If an ambulance does not arrive within 15 minutes, repeat step 3 while you wait.

Even if your symptoms improve and you didn’t need to call 999, you should still see a doctor or asthma nurse within 24 hours.

For more information about managing asthma during the cold months please visit or call our dedicated asthma nurse specialists on the Asthma UK Adviceline 0800 121 62 44   

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