Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winter asthma, a rude awakening

As many of you already know I have asthma and this hasn’t stopped me from living a very active life, physically. This past weekend I ran a 5k trail race and had a rude awakening as I started the run. Before the race I used both my long and short acting inhalers but due to the cold and very dry air I was wheezing through the first 2 miles of the race. I pushed on and finished with a much slower time than I expected.

Many of you have asthma of have children with asthma (I fall into both categories since my daughter has asthma also). Winter can be a very difficult time. We all think of asthma in relation to allergies and as a result think of the warm months when flowers, trees and grasses are producing pollen. But, winter offers another challenge. Cold dry air is a potent activator of asthma. When you, or a loved one with asthma, are exposed to cold dry winter air your airways react by constricting.

If you or a loved one has asthma you need to be vigilant when outside in the cold weather – well before you go outside make sure that you use your medications (follow your doctors recommendations).
  • Rescue inhalers need to be kept warm – keep your inhaler in an inside pocket close to your body and insulated from the outside air and wind (a cold inhaler won’t work when you need it). This also applies to those who need to carry EpiPens (they won’t work if they are frozen).
If you are already aware that cold dry air increases your asthma symptoms some additional things you can do when you go outside are:
  • Gentle exercise outside for 15 minutes prior to engaging in more strenuous activities (like shoveling or snow blowing)

  • If you are going to exercise or run outside do 5 30sec sprints with a 2:30 rest before your actual workout.
Last night I did a 3 mile run, which included the sprints and felt great – compared to my wheezing during the same distance on Sunday with no warm-up.

Yours in health, Dr. Tom Meehan

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