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Local NHS helps asthma sufferers breathe more easily this winter

Asthma sufferers across the Vale of York can breathe more easily during the winter months by following a series of simple steps, local health chiefs are advising.

Research by leading charity Asthma UK found that around three quarters of the 5.4 million people with the condition in the UK saw their symptoms triggered by the cold air and 90% reported that having a cold or flu made their asthma considerably worse.

Dr Andrew Phillips, Deputy Chief Clinical Officer at NHS Vale of York Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Winter can be a tricky and potentially dangerous time of year for people with asthma. This is often due to breathing cold air into the lungs and picking up colds and flu which can badly affect the respiratory system.

“Some sufferers will find their airways are more sensitive to changes in temperature so when the cold snaps come their symptoms often get worse.”


Inhaler technique

Using your inhaler properly is important and many people do not realise they aren't using it correctly. Although it might seem simple, it can be hard to get the steps just right without an expert showing you how.

John White, Respiratory Physician at York Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, said: “It is vital that you use your inhaler properly so that every dose you take gives you the most benefit.

“Talk to your doctor, asthma nurse or pharmacist who will explain how to use your inhaler and check your technique. They may even change your inhaler type if your current one is proving too difficult or ineffective.”


Flu vaccination

People with asthma are at high risk of suffering the ill effects of flu, making them a priority group for the seasonal flu vaccination this winter.

Dr Andrew Phillips added: “The flu jab is available free of charge on the NHS to eligible groups who can simply contact their GP practice to make an appointment to get the jab.

“The flu vaccine for children is given as a single dose of nasal spray squirted into each nostril. It is quick, needle-free and will mean your child is less likely to become ill if they come into contact with the flu virus.”


Simple steps

Here is some advice on how to control your asthma symptoms during the cold weather:

  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.

People whose asthma is well-controlled are more likely to be able to withstand the risks of winter months. 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.

For more information about coping with asthma during cold weather please visit www.asthma.org.uk.  

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