More than 17 million adults and 6 million children suffer with asthma in the U.S. Nurse Rose Melendez, RN, explains why winter is difficult for people with asthma and how to prevent asthma attacks this winter. Melendez is the head of Nursing Administration and the Emergency Department at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital.Rose Melendez

What is asthma?

Nurse Rose: Asthma is a lifelong breathing disorder that causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing – leading to 18 million emergency department visits per year. For some people, their asthma improves over time, while others take medication through an inhaler everyday.

Why is winter a difficult time for people with asthma?

Nurse Rose: The winter can be particularly challenging for people with asthma for several reasons.

  • Cold weather triggers asthma attacks.
  • The cold and flu aggravate asthma symptoms.
  • Staying indoors more increases exposure to triggers like dust and mold.
  • Cold medicine can interfere with asthma.

How can those with asthma stay safe this winter?

Nurse Rose: While it is difficult with the cold weather and dry heat in the winter, preventing asthma attacks during  is possible by following some of these guidelines.

  • Wear a scarf over your mouth and nose when going outside.
  • Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth when outdoors in the cold.
  • Exercise indoors when possible – physical activity can strengthen the lungs.
  • Keep indoor areas clean, regulate the humidity and minimize dust.
  • Take all medications as prescribed to you by your doctor, even if you feel fine.
  • Practice proper hand-washing frequently.
  • Drink plenty of fluids

What should parents do to help their children with asthma?

Nurse Rose: As the mother of a child with asthma, I know it can be unsettling because kids don’t always know how to tell you that they’re having trouble breathing. It’s important to follow these steps.

  • Make sure your child knows their triggers and early signs of an asthma attack
  • Create an asthma attack action plan with your child.
  • Discuss your child’s asthma action plan with the school nurse.

Importantly, if you have been prescribed a rescue inhaler for asthma, always carry it with you.

Learn more about Adventist HealthCare’s Respiratory and Pulmonary services.

Additional Health Tips from Rose

Find more family health tips online or tune into WGTS 91.9 FM every Wednesday at 7:40 a.m. to hear Rose live.