Preventing cold weather asthma attacks

NEW ORLEANS -- Doctors say people with asthma need to take extra precautions, and even medication, during this extreme cold weather.

And here in the south, we have a higher number of people with asthma. So doctors have expert advice to keep asthmatics out of the hospital in this weather.

Harold Moore, 49, has lived with asthma for 25 years.

"I can tell you, if you've ever fought for air, it's not a pleasant feeling," Moore said.

And like so many asthmatics, cold weather is a trigger for flare ups and attacks.

"It just feels like I have to expend a little bit more effort than usual to breathe," said Moore, who lives in Algiers.

"We see a lot more asthma exacerbations, a lot more folks that require rescue therapy use. They require sometimes oral prednisone, steroids," said Dr. Kyle Happel, an LSUHSC pulmonary critical care specialist.

Dr. Happel said there are two reasons. One is cold, dry air irritates the already constricted airways. The other is it forces people indoors.

"And when they're inside, they get greater exposure to indoor allergens and indoor pollution, and that itself can also aggravate the asthma," said Dr. Happel.

He recommends that people with asthma not exercise outside in the cold. It's best to go to a mall or workout in a gym. If you do exercise outdoors, use your rescue inhaler before you start.

As an ICU nurse, Harold has seen asthma patients on ventilators to save their lives, so he makes sure to follow his doctor's advice at all times.

"Listen to your doctor. Listen to your doctor and do what he says. Be compliant. Be faithful with your control medications, because it's always easier to prevent," said Moore.

"Very, very important to particularly, again during the cold season, to stay on those controller medications whether they're feeling

good, whether they're feeling not so good. Very important to wash hands. Very important to get the flu shot," said Dr. Happel.

"It's always easier to prepare than to mop up the mess afterwards," Moore said.

That's called an ounce of prevention.

Doctors at LSUHSC in New Orleans are looking for patients with asthma who smoke to join a free study. You have to be 50 or younger.

To see if you qualify, call 504-568-3456


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