Winter woes - An asthma patient's story
I was 5 when I woke up crying because I could not breathe. My chest felt heavy, and it was difficult to think or even tell people how I felt. My mom panicked and took me straight to the hospital. By that time, I was gasping for air, and the doctor quickly put medicine in the nebuliser, which helped me breathe better in a few minutes. He explained to my mother that I might be asthmatic and how she could manage these problems at home. I stayed there for a few hours and was then sent home.
I am now 30 and have been asthmatic for as long as I can remember. Although my asthma is not very severe most of the year and I can get by with an occasional pump from my inhaler, it is the winter season that I love and dread at the same time.
What happens to asthmatic patients like me in the winter?
Winters are horrible for those suffering from asthma. Every time I get out, I must carry my inhaler and try to stay away from places with dry air, very cold and polluted. When you're living in northern India, the list of places unsuitable for asthmatics is everywhere. So how do I ensure that I enjoy winters while staying safe? Here's what I do:
Ensure that you have enough medication
Get extra inhalers or any other medication you need before winter begins, and ensure that their expiration date is not near. If you have all your medication in place, you can manage minor flare-ups better instead of having to go to the market to get supplies during a flare-up.
Stay away from pets if you can
Pet hairs can trigger asthma, especially during winter when pets are at home. Keep your pets outside your bedroom if possible so you can get a good night's rest.
Use covers for your quilts and blankets
Quilts and blankets often let out pet dander and small filling particles, which can trigger asthma. Using a bed cover and a blanket cover that you change regularly will help you avoid irritants such as dander and fibres.
Use an exhaust fan in the kitchen
If you have an electric or concrete chimney, great. If not, invest in an exhaust fan and use it while cooking to ensure that fumes do not irritate your lungs.
Keep your house dry
Keeping the house dry inhibits the growth of mould, dust mites and other irritants and ensures that you can sleep peacefully without irritants triggering your asthma. However, if dry air irritates your lungs, use a steamer or a humidifier to ensure that dust settles and the air is just about right for you.
Wear a mask when you venture outside
In today's COVID-riddled world, it is always good to wear a mask. When you have asthma, wearing a mask helps keep irritants at bay—especially dust and fumes, which will otherwise trigger your asthma.
Stay warm and wear warm clothing
Keep your chest warm, wear a mask and do not walk into a cold room right from the shower. All this can cause your asthma to flare up and cause other problems such as cold, cough, and flu, which are terrible for asthmatics.
Stay away from smoke—especially cigarette smoke
If you are asthmatic, it is better if you quit smoking for good. If your friends or family smoke, explain to them that it can cause life-threatening problems, and stay in a different room if you can.
Try and reduce intensive exercise
Mild workouts are good. If you work out intensively, you will start breathing through your mouth, which brings cold, dry air straight to your airways. This dries up the mucus lining your lungs and causes asthma flare-ups.
Use a heater that does not dry out the air
Using an oil-filled radiator or other types of heating that do not reduce moisture in the room is good for asthmatics. If your heating system is reducing moisture in the room, try using a humidifier to increase the amount of moisture. This will help you be up and about in the home comfortably.
How can Sanrai help me?
Do you know what is better than a flare-up? knowing the condition of your lungs before flare-ups occur. I met reps from Sanrai at a medical camp where they showcased a nifty device called the Smart PeakFlow meter. This device helps asthmatics provide their doctors with a complete analysis of their current condition, so that they can get the best care possible. Smart PeakFlow meter is a flow meter that connects to your phone through the 3.5mm audio jack or via Bluetooth, instantly analysing your peak flow and keeping a record of your respiratory health over time.
Additionally, Sanrai also showcased a mobile app called ResApp. This app uses cough sounds to analyse your respiratory health and helps healthcare providers give you the right treatment at the right time.
Winters are bad for asthmatics, but ensuring that they take good care of themselves and their surroundings will help them easily sail through this season. What's better is that with a proper winter regimen in place, they can even enjoy this season with friends and family. As always, ensure that you stay in touch with your healthcare provider and use your medication or assistive devices as needed. Take care, stay healthy and have a happy new year!