17 May 2022

Asthma Society’s top tips on managing your asthma during the cold weather

asthma beast from the east weather

Cold weather can be bad news for people with Asthma

The Asthma Society warns people with asthma to stay safe during very cold weather because of the risk of an attack.

 Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, urged sufferers to be extra cautious.

“Cold weather is a serious trigger for many people with asthma. During cold spells, people need to be particularly careful and proactive in managing their asthma to avoid having an asthma attack, which for some people, can be fatal. 470,000 people in Ireland have asthma and one of these people tragically dies every week,” she said.

Top Tips for Managing your Asthma in the cold weather:

- Take your prescribed controller medication daily and have your reliever inhaler with you at all times.
- It is important to use a reliever inhaler before going out in frosty, damp conditions.
- On cold windy days wear a scarf over your nose and mouth - this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in.
- Take extra care when exercising in cold weather- warm up for 10-15 minutes. Take two puffs of your reliever inhaler before you start. Exercise indoors if possible.
- Wash your hands regularly. Try to avoid coming into contact with harmful bacteria by washing hands, or using hand sanitiser, regularly.
- Check the weather forecast.Try to avoid trips outside during particularly cold, wet, and windy weather, which might make breathing more difficult.
- Call the Asthma Society’s free Asthma and COPD Adviceline on 1800 44 54 64 if you have any questions about managing your asthma.
- Colds and flus are also very prominent at this time of the year and are also a trigger for asthma. Try to avoid contracting the flu virus by:
- Get the flu vaccine.
- Get plenty of sleep and eat healthily - this can help boost your immunity and decrease the risks of contracting the flu.
- If you suspect someone has a cold or the flu, keep your distance where possible.
- Cover your mouth when sneezing using a tissue – this tissue should be binned afterwards.
- Try to get into the habit of not touching your face as this is often how the flu is spread.
- Regularly clean hard surfaces such as phones, keyboards and door handles.

If you catch the flu, you should:

- Schedule an appointment with your doctor straight away.
- Remember to use your preventative inhaler everyday, which will help control. inflammation in your lungs – this will make you less likely to have an asthma attack.
- Improve your inhaler technique to get the best benefit from your medication – watch our Inhaler Technique videos on for best practice.
- Always carry your reliever inhaler with you wherever you go.
- Rest as much as possible - the flu can be extremely tiring and you will need all your energy to fight it.
- Stay hydrated – drink plenty of water.
- Stay home from work/school when you experience flu symptoms, to rest and also to avoid spreading the virus.
- If you have an questions about managing your asthma during the cold weather, the Asthma Society runs an Asthma and COPD Adviceline which users can call for free on 1800 44 54 64 to speak a respiratory specialist nurse. 

The Asthma Society sahs these tips should also be followed by people with COPD in Ireland as COPD symptoms can also be triggered by the cold weather.  More than 380,000 people in Ireland have COPD but only 110,000 are diagnosed with the illness.  If you have any questions about managing your COPD, the number to call is: 1800 83 21 46.

The Asthma Adviceline is available at 1800 44 54 64.

The COPD Adviceline is available at 1800 83 21 46.

The Adviceline respiratory specialist nurses work through life with asthma: what to do in the event of an asthma attack, answering questions after a GP or consultant appointment, dealing with triggers that may be bringing on asthma symptoms, and helping users put together an Asthma Action Plan to self-manage their condition.

After speaking to one of the adviceline nurses, users will be fully equipped with the information and skills they need to improve their health and stay as well as possible.

Callers can make a free appointment by calling the free phone number between 9-5pm, Monday to Friday -the Asthma Society then makes a nurse call back at a time that suits the patient.

The Asthma Society of Ireland is the national charity dedicated to empowering Ireland's 470,000 people with asthma to take control of their asthma by providing them and their families with information, education, services and support. They are focused on representing people with asthma and working to improve their health outcomes.

Asthma is an inflammatory disease of varying severity that affects the airways – the small tubes that carry the air in and out of the lungs.  People with asthma have airways that are extra sensitive to substances (or triggers), which irritate them. Common triggers include cold and flu, cigarette smoke, exercise and animals.

When the airways come into contact with an asthma trigger, the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten so that the airways become narrower. The lining of the airways swell and produce sticky mucus.  As the airways narrow, it becomes difficult for the air to move in and out. That is why people with asthma wheeze and find breathing difficult.

Whilst there is no cure, asthma can be controlled by avoiding triggers and by the use of ‘reliever’ and ‘controller’ medication. Relievers are medicines that people with asthma take immediately when asthma symptoms appear. Controllers help calm the airways and stop them from being so sensitive. Talk to your GP or asthma nurse about which treatment is most suitable for you.  All patients with asthma are also advised to have a tailored asthma action plan, a crucial part of patient self-management, which helps patients control their asthma.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a disease that makes it hard to empty air out of your lungs. This is because the airways get smaller leading to airflow obstruction. This can result in shortness of breath or tiredness because you are working harder to breathe.

People can experience COPD in different ways depending on which symptoms trouble them most and how severe they are. COPD is a progressive illness meaning it has several stages of severity. It tends to creep up on people slowly. This means it can often be several years before symptoms reach a level that will make the sufferer go to the GP. Symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath are often attributed to getting older.

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