Asthma and COPD can worsen during winter

New Winter Wellness Guide launched
  • Deborah Condon

People with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) are being reminded of the importance of looking after themselves during the winter months, as many with these conditions experience flare-ups at this time of year.

There are around 380,000 people with asthma in Ireland, and a further 380,000 with COPD. Among those affected, triggers such as cold air and viral infections can lead to more frequent and severe respiratory symptoms.

In response to this, the Asthma Society of Ireland (ASI) has launched a Winter Wellness Guide, which provides information on how to better manage both asthma and COPD during the coming months.

The ASI runs an adviceline and a WhatsApp messaging service for people with these conditions, and according to the society's interim CEO, Emily Blennerhasset, users of these services often say that they experience a flare-up of their symptoms at this time of year.

"Many with respiratory conditions can experience a poorer quality of life in the winter months for this reason. Our Winter Wellness Guide includes advice from the HSE, input from our medical advisory group, and hints and tips from both our asthma and COPD nurses, as well as from patients, on keeping well during cold weather," she explained.

Both the adviceline and the WhatsApp messaging service allow users to communicate directly with an asthma/COPD nurse specialist, and both are free of charge to use.

"Every winter I receive questions from people with asthma and COPD about what precautions they can take during the colder months. In particular, they ask what they can do to stop cold air triggering their condition.

"One piece of practical advice I always give is to cover your mouth with a snood or scarf on colder days. This heats the air before it enters your lungs making it easier to breathe. Another tip I always give is to exercise indoors during bouts of cold weather if at all possible," explained Ruth Morrow, a respiratory nurse specialist with the ASI's WhatsApp service.

The Winter Wellness Guide focuses on five main tips for the coming months:
-If you do not already have one, put an asthma action plan/COPD management plan in place
-Get vaccinated against flu and pneumococcal disease
-Follow the HSE's advice on preventing the spread of COVID-19
-Take your asthma/COPD medication as prescribed and carry your reliever inhaler with you at all times
-Remember that cold air can trigger your asthma/COPD, so take precautions to reduce the risk of it triggering an asthma attack or COPD exacerbation.

The Winter Wellness Guide can be accessed here. The number for the adviceline is 1800 44 54 64, or the WhatsApp messaging service can be contacted on 086 059 0132.

Meanwhile, the ASI is also hosting an asthma self-management masterclass on Thursday, November 12, at 5:30 pm. The class features the ASI's medical director and respiratory consultant, Dr Marcus Butler, and respiratory nurse specialist, Ruth Morrow.

It aims to educate people with asthma, their carers, and healthcare professionals on how to stay well this winter. The free event will take place on Zoom. To register, click here.


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