People who have asthma are at greater risk during the fall and winter seasons of the year. Because your airways may already be inflamed due to your asthma, you are more likely to be susceptible to respiratory infections. If you do get an infection, then because you have asthma, you are also at greater risk of having more serious complications from the infection.
Also at this time of year, people often tend to get rundown, because they are busier with holiday shopping, decorating, preparing and traveling. You may not eat as well, get the exercise you need, or sleep enough. Add to that your overall stress level and it is a prescription for illness.
But the good news is there some fairly easy things you can do to stay healthy, despite all these challenges. Here are a few easy tips you can follow:
1. First off, get your annual flu shot!
The flu vaccine is highly recommended for everyone who has asthma. There are many myths about flu shots, but the bottom line is that they are safe and reliable, much more so than just taking your chances and possilby catching the flu. Check out this article I wrote a couple of years back that gives a lot of basic facts about the flu and the flu vaccine. And you can also visit the Centers for Disease Control to get the latest flu vaccine facts. On the CDC page, you can also find out where flu shots are available in your area, although it seems to me you can get them these days at just about any chain pharmacy or grocery store.
If you have never had a pneumonia shot, this may also be in order. But check with your doctor to be sure. Here is more info in this article on pneumonia vaccines.
2. Wash your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap frequently.
The biggest way germs are spread is through person to person contact. And this time of year, there are plenty of germs about! So, it's a good idea to wash your hands before and after meals and any time that you come into contact with public surfaces or infected people.
3. Avoid people who are sick.
This one seems like kind of a no-brainer, but if you have asthma it is best not to be a sick person's caregiver, if you can avoid it. If you must come into contact with someone who is sick, then use your best handwashing practices! Also, keep your distance as much as you can and encourage them to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing. And don't touch your nose or mouth until after you wash your hands!
4. Take your allergy and asthma medications as prescribed.
Your first line of defense in staying healthy is always to follow your asthma action plan, and that includes taking your daily controller medicines, as well as knowing when to use your rescue inhaler appropriately.
Keeping your asthma and allergies under control will help you to be more resistant to any germs you may come into contact with.
5. Call your doctor at the first signs of illness.
Most of us don't enjoy going to the doctor, but when you have asthma, it's best not to wait once you start showing signs of respiratory infection, especially if you start to show signs that your asthma control is slipping.
If you use a peak flow meter, watch your measurements carefully and use your asthma action plan to help you figure out if asthma control is slipping. If you don't use a meter, then watch for any increases in coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath.
If you think you might have been exposed to or contracted the flu, there may be antiviral medicine your doctor can give you, if you get there quickly enough. If you aren't having symptoms yet, these drugs may even prevent the flu. If you are already having symptoms, then they can greatly lessen the severity of the flu and help you recover more quickly. These drugs are 70 to 90% effective when given soon enough.
6. Practice a healthy lifestyle.
Your best preventive measure against any kind of illness is live as healthy as possible. This includes making healthy eating choices, staying active, getting at least 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night, managing your stress, limiting alcohol intake, and not smoking.
So, as you can see, it's not as hard as you might think to stay healthy this winter. But it does take effort and vigilance. So why not get started today?