The winter months are known for their cold and dreary days, but they can also bring with them a host of problems that affect our lungs. That’s why it’s essential to know how to keep your lungs healthy this winter. Here are eight ways to do that:
1. Know Your Triggers
One of the most important things you can do is know your triggers. If you have asthma, keeping a diary of when and where it happens will help you figure out the significant triggers to avoid them. If it’s pollen or mold, for example, stay inside as much as possible—and if it’s dust or pets that seem to be causing trouble for you, make sure to dust and vacuum frequently.
If this doesn’t work and your asthma symptoms continue despite changing your environment and avoiding known triggers, consult an allergist about getting tested for other allergies that might make life difficult for your lungs.
2. Get Vaccinated Against the Flu
If you haven’t already, it’s time to get vaccinated. The flu shot is a safe, effective way to protect yourself and your family against the flu virus and pneumonia. Flu shots are available at your local pharmacy, doctor’s office, or health department.
In some states, vaccines are accessible for those who qualify—including children ages six months through 18 years old, people over 50 years old, pregnant women; people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes; and members of the American Indian/Alaska Native tribe. For everyone else: it’s recommended that everyone over six months of age get an annual vaccination against the flu and pneumonia.
3. Keep Tabs on Pollen and Mold Counts
Pollen is a significant trigger for asthma and allergies; you should know when it hits your area. If you have asthma, pollen levels typically reach their highest point in late winter and early spring. The level of pollen in the air varies depending on the weather conditions (dampness helps pollen stick to surfaces) and the type of trees and grasses growing near where you live. When there’s a lot of rain and snow, it may seem like less pollen in the air because all those plants are dormant, but don’t be fooled: they’re still producing it! Some studies suggest that wet weather can make things worse by allowing mold spores—another common trigger for allergies—to grow more quickly indoors.
4. Practice Good Hand Hygiene to Prevent Influenza (the flu) and Other Illnesses
- wash your hands often with soap and water, mainly after coughing or sneezing, using the bathroom, or touching anything contaminated by germs.
- use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available at work, school, or traveling.
- cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze to help prevent others from getting sick. If possible, avoid public places such as grocery stores if you have flu-like symptoms like fever, aches in body parts other than your head and chest region (such as muscles), fatigue, etc.
- clean surfaces often touched by using disinfectant wipes on doorknob handles; countertops; tables etc., especially if someone has been sick with influenza within the last 21 days of cleaning those surfaces
5. Stay Active Outdoors
Like most people, you already know that exercise is good for your health. But did you know that it can help protect your lungs and respiratory system?
- avoid vigorous exercise on high-pollen or high-ozone days. These days, pollen and ozone levels are especially high in the air. If you have asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), avoid strenuous exercise on these days because they could trigger an asthma attack or lead to breathing problems.
- go easy on cold-weather workouts outdoors. Cold air can irritate the lungs and increase coughing and wheezing during exercise in colder temperatures. Stay indoors until an hour after sunrise or until an hour before sunset so that all the pollens have settled down for the night (or day).
6. Avoid Secondhand Smoke, Whether Indoor or Outdoor
If you’re a smoker, it’s time to quit.
Secondhand smoke can cause serious health problems in children and adults, including lung cancer and heart disease. It also can lead to asthma attacks in children and adults who have never smoked.
Even if you don’t smoke yourself but live or work with someone who does, you’ll want to take precautions against secondhand smoke so that your lungs are protected as much as possible.
7. If You Smoke, join a Smoking Cessation Program or Get Help from Your Doctor to Quit
- you can get help from your doctor or health care provider.
- check with your local American Lung Association for smoking cessation programs.
- join a support group to help you quit smoking.
8. Avoid Contact with Those Who Have a Respiratory Illness
- if you have severe asthma or COPD, try to avoid contact with those with respiratory illnesses such as the flu, cold, cough, or other viral respiratory infection.
- stay home when you’re sick. This will help prevent the spread of germs to others.
- wash your hands often with soap and water; use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if you don’t have access to a sink. Don’t forget about those hidden spots like under nails and between fingers!
- cough into your sleeve (not your hands) to prevent passing germs onto surfaces where they can be transmitted later in the day and to other members of your household/workplace etc…
We Can All Do Some Simple Things to Keep our Lungs Healthy Year-Round
We hope you find these tips helpful, and remember that it’s never too late to start protecting your lungs. There are many things you can do every day to keep them healthy—especially during winter when cold, and flu viruses are most common. If you know someone with asthma or COPD who struggles with their health in the wintertime, please share this article with them so they, too, can benefit from these tips! If you are suffering from asthma symptoms, contact our asthma specialist in Orlando to help you find a treatment plan that works for you!