How winter affects your asthma

There are a number of factors that lead to an increase in asthma attacks in winter.

05 August 2014
by Wendy Maritz

Asthma is a chronic or long-term disease that affects the lungs. It causes inflammation of the air passages that results in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. In severe cases, asthma can cause decreased activity and an inability to talk.

In South Africa, asthma affects about five percent of adults, and 10 percent of children, and is more prolific in cities, and in families where one or both parents suffer from the condition, explains Dr Adrian Morris of the Allergy Clinic, Cape Town. “Being born by Caesarean section and not being breast-fed are also risk factors,” he adds.

Why winter strikes asthma sufferers harder

Because asthma sufferers have slightly more infection-prone systems, they tend to be more susceptible to colds and flu, which will invariably settle on their chests causing more frequent asthma attacks, and infections like bronchitis. This may lead to complications like pneumonia, sinusitis and ear infections.

Aside from winter viruses, other factors that contribute to the increase in asthma attacks include damp and the increase in mould spores, indoor contact with pets, and so-called “crèche syndrome”, where children are infected by other sick children at playschools. “Children with asthma are more at risk for developing chest infections,” warns Dr Morris.

“Winter is also associated with high levels of airborne mould spores, which can trigger life-threatening asthma, especially in susceptible children. They thrive in a humid environment, as do house-dust mites,” he adds.

Take these precautionary measures

The following precautionary measures are suggested if you or anyone in your family suffers from asthma:

  • Eat plenty of immune-boosting nutrients, including the following: Probiotics – found in yoghurt with live cultures. Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Vitamin D – found in oily fish and fortified margarines. Omega-3 fats – found in fatty fish like salmon and pilchards. These nutrients also available in supplement form at Clicks. Chat to a Clicks pharmacist for further advice about this.
  • Keep asthmatic children away from other sick children as far as possible.
  • Increase the frequency of preventer inhalers at the first sign of a viral infection.
  • Reduce exposure to pets.
  • Use nasal sprays and antihistamines (ask your GP and Clicks pharmacist for advice on the use of both).
  • Exercise and keep fit.
  • Get a flu shot before the start of winter every year. These are available at Clicks clinics.
  • Avoid cigarette and fireplace smoke.
  • Vacuum your home regularly.
  • Dress appropriately for the cold.

Managing asthma includes having an action plan. If your asthma symptoms are not under control, speak to your Clicks pharmacist or make an appointment with your GP/specialist.

Visit the Allergy Clinic for more information.

How Clicks Clinics can help you during the flu season

Book an appointment for a flu vaccination at a Clicks Clinic by calling 0860 254 257 or visiting Clicks Clinics online. The good news is that most medical aids now cover the flu vaccination and sometimes even reward members. 

Take note that the following people cannot get vaccinated:

  • Babies younger than 6 months
  • Anyone allergic to eggs
  • Anyone who already has a fever
  • Anyone who has shown a past reaction to a vaccine

Shop now at Clicks.co.za for cold and flu remedies

To help you ward off colds and the flu, or recover from them, Clicks pharmacists have selected the most trustworthy and affordable products for you to purchase online. These include a wide range of vitamins and supplements and cough, cold and flu remedies.

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