During cold and flu season, there’s a lot of advice out there about preventing/dealing with illness. But what about those who have asthma? Should you take the same measures, you would if you didn’t have asthma? Or is there something different you should be doing to make sure an attack doesn’t occur?
The fact is people with asthma should be especially mindful of what they’re doing. While it’s easy enough to say, “don’t touch that, you’re going to get sick,” or “don’t go into that public place where everyone else is coughing their heads off,” knowing what works takes a little more knowledge. Here is a quick guide to help you prevent an asthma attack caused by a cold or flu.
What is Asthma
Asthma is a chronic condition that affects approximately 25 million Americans, according to the CDC. When you have asthma, the airways in your lungs can become inflamed and narrow, making it hard to breathe. Although the exact cause of asthma is unknown, it is often a result of the body’s immune system responding to an allergen within the environment.
This condition can develop as early as 5 months of age and persist throughout one’s life. Since there is no cure, many people develop treatment plans with their doctors to help prevent asthma attacks and lessen symptoms when they present themselves.
Signs of an Asthma Attack
When oxygen can no longer get to the brain or the rest of the body, it can cause severe irreversible damage. Therefore, understanding the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack can differentiate between life and death. Although the severity of symptoms can vary, they generally fall into the same category when they are present such as:
- tightening of chest
- shortness of breath
How to Treat an Asthma Attack
Once you are diagnosed with asthma, you and your doctor will work together to create the most effective treatment plan to prevent, control and manage your asthma symptoms. In many cases, short and long-term medication will be prescribed to help combat asthma attacks. Short-term medications work to reduce symptoms when they occur, whereas long-term medicines work to control inflammation and narrowing of your airways.
Depending on the severity of your asthma attack, you may be able to manage symptoms with the medications you are on and have been prescribed. However, if you notice your symptoms become more severe, and the medicines are no longer working, you more than likely need to seek emergency care. Do not hesitate to seek emergency care if your symptoms become unmanageable.
Prevention of Cold and Flu
Suffering from asthma puts you at increased risk for asthma attacks. Although it may be under control, situations such as a viral infection like a cold or flu can make your mild asthma symptoms more severe and may land you in the ER. The first step in preventing a cold or flu-induced asthma attack is to reduce your risk of coming down with these illnesses in the first place. Although that may be easier said than done, especially when everyone around you seems to be sick, here are a few easy steps you can implement during cold and flu season:
- wash your hands frequently
- avoid sharing food, clothing, etc. With those who are sick
- do not touch your eyes and nose
- take care of your body with rest and reduce stress
- get the flu vaccine
Keep Track of Your Symptoms and Seek Treatment
As we discussed previously, having a cold or flu can exacerbate your asthma symptoms. However, that does not mean you should ignore them when they become more severe. If you notice that being sick has worsened your asthma, it’s always best to contact your doctor before it’s too late. Symptoms can worsen faster than you think, and being more proactive about treating your asthma when you are sick can prevent severe attacks.
If your symptoms get worse before you have a chance to contact your doctor seek medical attention immediately. You want to ensure you get treatment right away to prevent severe problems.
Focus on Health and Recovery
Getting over a cold or flu means lots of R&R. The best thing you can do is take care of your body by staying rested and hydrated. Always keep your asthma medications at hand in case of a flare-up and continue to check in with both your primary care doctor and asthma specialist.
Our asthma and allergy specialists here at Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Associates of Central Florida are ready to help you breathe free this cold and flu season. Contact us today to set up an appointment to discuss your asthma symptoms and create a specifically designed treatment plan.