With weather warnings in place, a leading GP in Pennine Lancashire is reminding those with breathing difficulties how they can manage their condition better during cold weather.
Dr Stuart Berry, GP lead for respiratory conditions at NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups, explains what you can do to help manage lung conditions such as asthma and what to do should you find your inhalers are not helping you.
He said: “People who use inhalers often notice that the cold weather makes their condition worse and they are coughing more, have more wheezing or are getting out of breath more easily. Staying up to date with your vaccinations for flu/covid will help reduce the impact those infections can have on you.
“If you find that your inhalers are not helping you then please contact your GP practice and ask for an appointment with the asthma nurse or GP. We ask that you bring all your inhalers and spacers if you have them with you to your appointments as we need to check that you are able to get the most out of them. Some are harder to use than others so it’s important that we know you that you can use them well. We recommend that everyone who uses inhalers has a review with their practice at least once a year.”
Asthma is a common lung condition which can cause breathing difficulties as it affects the airways that carry air in and out of your lungs. Symptoms include: breathlessness, coughing, tightening of the chest and wheezing.
If you have asthma symptoms but are having problems making an appointment for a review at your GP practice, telephone 111.
There are several things you can do to help manage your asthma during cold weather:
- Make sure you have enough medication and always keep your inhaler with you
- If you go out, wear a scarf over your nose and mouth to stop the cold air going in your lungs and tightening your airways
- Make sure you attend your regular review or if you find that you are having to increase your inhaler use, contact your GP practice to ask for a medication review
- Make sure you have had all of your covid vaccinations including the booster and get your flu vaccination if you haven’t already – it isn’t too late
- Have a plan about what to do if you need to use your blue inhaler 3 or more times per week. If this is happening it means that your airways are swelling up and there is a risk of having a serious asthma attack. Ask your asthma nurse for an asthma action plan
- If you use a steroid nasal spray, watch the video on the Asthma UK website about how to use it properly to get the most benefit from it. Staying on top of any nose allergy also helps the rest of your airways
“Dr Berry added: If you have a child who is asthmatic it is very important that you maintain good contact with your child’s clinician. Take notice of your child’s early warning signs of asthma and know your child’s asthma triggers. Make sure they take control but with your help and that they take their medication regularly, and with the best technique. Consider a different device if you are having problems getting the technique right.
“If you find that you can’t get your breathing, or your child’s breathing under control and you are struggling, do not hesitate to ring 999.”
There are 2 websites which are recommended for people who use inhalers.
Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation both have free telephone advice helplines available:
Asthma UK: 0300 222 5800
British Lung Foundation: 03000 030 555
The Asthma UK website has some really good tips for staying well over winter. Please look at their site. https://www.asthma.org.uk/
British Lung Foundation https://www.blf.org.uk/
For more information go online to https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/