BLOG: Respiratory Health
Handle Your Health: Breathe Easy for the Holidays
With the holidays upon us and chilly weather popping up nationwide, let’s talk about some possible health issues that could affect those with different types of respiratory challenges. Cold air is often dry air, and for many, especially those with chronic lung disease, that can spell trouble. Dry air can irritate the airways of people with asthma, COPD or bronchitis. This can cause things that get in the way of winter fun, like wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
A few of the maladies that can accompany cold weather are asthma, allergies and COPD. This time of year is full of things that may trigger respiratory troubles. Some common sources of respiratory issues in the colder months include*:
- Indoor heat – Use of the heater in the cold seasons add warm, dry air to your environment and may affect normal ease of breathing. It is also important to be aware of the effects of indoor combustion products on your asthma and allergies. This is generally seen with use of fireplaces, wood stoves, and gas stoves. Studies have shown that children’s exposure to these in can result in asthma symptoms. Sometimes, people have been known to partially heat their home by running the gas burners on the oven. Beyond this being a fire hazard, it is also an unsafe practice because it puts particles in the air that can aggravate asthma.
- Holiday gatherings – The aforementioned indoor heat usage is just one of the things that keep a home cozy when friends and family get together for the holidays. Cooking is a staple of holiday events and that also creates potential issues for respiratory health. Even using fragrant incense or candles can be at fault for those sensitive to them. Lastly, as beautiful and comforting as a fireplace can be, it may also a culprit in causing some respiratory difficulties.
- Smoking – This one goes without saying. However, holidays can cause stress for some and those folks may take more smoke breaks than usual, and depending on where they go to light up, second hand smoke can be a strong factor for respiratory problems.
- Plants and Trees – Trees and other outdoor plants are often brought indoors during cold months. One of the most decorative and popular display plants in the holiday season is the poinsettia. It is traditional during the holidays, but it also shares some common allergens that may cause people with latex allergy to develop a cross-sensitivity to poinsettia plants.
- O Tanenbaum – Of course, we cannot talk about holiday triggers without including the Christmas tree. Tree pollen and airborne allergens are common with exposure to pine, fir, or spruce trees. Molds may also be on these trees when taken indoors, and exposure could cause a severe asthma event bad enough to require hospitalization. It is advisable not to bring these trees indoors if anyone in the home is sensitive to them.
*cited from www.yourlunghealth.org
You don’t have to stay inside the entire season, that’s for sure. There are many outdoor activities during the holidays to fill your time between feasts and treats. From viewing holiday lights, to taking a walk, to caroling, or even engaging a good old fashioned snowball fight, outdoor fun should be handled with care when it comes to your health.
If you do venture out, keep in mind that according to the American Lung Association, cold air can play havoc with your lungs and overall health. Cold air is often dry air, and for many, especially those with chronic lung disease, that can spell trouble. Dry air can irritate the airways of people with asthma, COPD or bronchitis. This can cause things that get in the way of winter fun, like wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. Keep the following tips in mind as you head outside:
- Loosely wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth to warm the air before it enters your lungs. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Monitor air quality forecasts to stay healthy. Air pollution can be very high in the winter, especially in areas with a lot of wood burning. Those with asthma or other lung diseases are at higher risk for being harmed by air pollution.
- If you have asthma or COPD, always keep quick-relief medications with you. Stop your current activity and use your quick-relief medicine as soon as you show symptoms.
- Keep friends and family in the know about your plans and whereabouts, in case of emergency.
Remember, with a little care and safety-minded planning, you can increase your chances of staying healthy this winter. Enjoy your holidays from all of us here at LifeCare Health Partners, where our mission is to Accelerate Healing, Restore Health and Improve Life.
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