For many people suffering with asthma, the winter months and the colder air can trigger asthma symptoms and flare ups which can lead to breathing problems.
If you are asthmatic, it is important that you have regular reviews with your GP, nurse or pharmacist to make sure you are taking the right medication and the right dose. Your primary care clinician may message you and ask you to complete a review remotely; this helps them understand who might need a little more support to control their asthma better.
Cold weather asthma symptoms are no different than asthma caused by other triggers. Asthma symptoms include:
- Coughing, whether dry or with phlegm
- Wheezing, especially when breathing out
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in your chest
For anyone who suffers with asthma, you will know that inhalers (especially your preventer treatment which contains an inhaled steroid) are a vital part of your treatment and it's essential that you continue to take your inhalers as prescribed to keep your lungs healthy and prevent asthma attacks.
You can watch a video of Rachel Howard, a lead pharmacist at the NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board talking about the importance of managing your asthma in the cold winter months here: Managing your asthma effectively in the cold winter months
Remember to make sure you order your repeat prescriptions in plenty of time, so you don't run out of treatment.
How green are your inhalers?
As part of a collaborative effort between the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board, local hospitals, community pharmacies, GPs and respiratory nurses, patients across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are now being offered the opportunity to use ‘greener’ inhaler devices.
Inhalers contribute to 3-4% of the entire NHS carbon footprint. Other countries use far more dry powder inhalers (DPIs) which have a much lower carbon footprint as they do not contain propellant gases. Many patients find DPIs much easier to use too.
It is important not to stop using your current inhalers without a review from your GP, nurse, or pharmacist.
Neil Hardy, Chief Pharmacist at the NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board said: “If you are asthmatic, it is important that you have regular reviews with your GP, nurse or pharmacist to make sure you are taking the right dose and the right medication. If you need to use your reliever (blue/Salbutamol) inhaler more than three times in a week, this can be a sign that your asthma is not well controlled, and you should ask for a review.
“As part of this review you may also want to speak to your GP about which inhaler is best for your symptoms and the planet as some inhalers have a much higher carbon footprint.
“I would also encourage anyone with asthma to take up the offer of a free Flu or COVID vaccination this winter. Flu and COVID-19 can affect anyone, but if you have a long-term health condition, the effects can make it worse even if the condition is well managed and you normally feel well.”
What to do if you are having an asthma attack
If you think you're having an asthma attack, you should:
- Sit up straight – try to keep calm.
- Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30 to 60 seconds up to 10 puffs.
- If you feel worse at any point, or you do not feel better after 10 puffs, call 999 for an ambulance.
- If the ambulance has not arrived after 10 minutes and your symptoms are not improving, repeat step 2.
- If your symptoms are no better after repeating step 2, and the ambulance has still not arrived, contact 999 again immediately.
Never be frightened of calling for help in an emergency.
(N.B This advice is not for people on SMART or MART treatment where you will be using the same inhaler for day to day (maintenance) treatment and when your asthma symptoms increase (reliever). If this applies to you, ask a GP or asthma nurse what to do if you have an asthma attack.)