THE BEST supplements to boost your diet during dark winter months include vitamin D, which has now been found to protect against severe asthma attacks.

The best supplements to take during cold winter months include vitamin D due to the lack of sunshine.

However, a new study has found that topping up on the essential vitamin could also protect against severe asthma attacks too.
Asthma attacks can be more prevalent during winter because cold air in the airways can cause them to go into spasm, according to Asthma UK.
Researchers at Queen Mary University of London discovered that people who took oral vitamin D supplements in addition to standard asthma medication could halve their risk of an asthma attack that required hospital attendance.
“On average, three people in the UK die from asthma attacks every day.
While getting vitamin D from sun exposure is the most efficient way to absorb it, people can struggle to get enough during the winter months and there is also the risk of skin cancer.

10 tips for winter

Cold, dry air and an increased risk of upper respiratory infections can worsen asthma symptoms during the winter. Washing your hands frequently, exercising indoors, and taking other healthy steps can help you keep a handle on asthma attacks.

  1. Wash your hands! 
  2. Don’t sit by the fireplace. “The more evidence we have, the more we realize that burning wood is like burning tobacco,” explains Todd Rambasek, MD, of ENT & Allergy Health Services in Cleveland.
  3. Keep your mouth closed. Ideally, you want to breathe through your nose, not your mouth, when you’re out in the cold because the nose warms up the air for the lungs, Dr. Rambasek says.
  4. Replace filters. Your home heating system may blow dust and debris throughout your house, especially when you first start it up for the winter. It’s important to clean and replace filters before turning on your system so as not to release the debris.
  5. Exercise indoors. On days when it’s bitterly cold outside and the wind chill makes it feel like it’s below zero, Li recommends going to the gym instead of exercising outside. “The temperatures and the humidity in the gym are less likely to cause a problem,” she says.
  6. Warm up before working out. A recent study showed that people with asthma recover faster and have greater lung function after exercising when they are warmed up.
  7. Take steps to prevent asthma flares. Take a preventive dose of your asthma medicine before heading outside, whether to exercise, walk the dog, or run errands.
  8. Have an asthma action plan. No matter what the season, you should always know what to do if your asthma symptoms flare.
  9. Take your medications. It’s important to follow your treatment plan regardless of the time of year. Don’t let a busy work or social schedule cause you to ignore your health.

Keeping your asthma under control may take a little more effort in the cold of winter, but these strategies should get you through the season without worsened symptoms.

Tips to help you get through the flu season

The Flu season is upon us and is generally considered to be the worst time of year for COPD patients and others that suffer from respiratory conditions. Because COPD often affects the immune system, as well as the ability to recover from common illnesses, you need to be vigilant to try and protect yourself from catching colds and the flu. Sometimes its difficult to tell whether you’ve just got a cold or the flu, but as both can exacerbate COPD it’s important to be able to distinguish between the two.

cold and flu symptomsA cold usually begins with a sore throat followed by clear, watery nasal drainage, sneezing, fatigue and sometimes a slight fever. A mild cough is a common cold symptom and usually lasts into the second week of the cold. If you are coughing up dark mucus then you may have a bacterial infection and should see your doctor. A more severe fever or other symptoms would indicate that it is more likely to be the flu. With the flu your symptoms are more severe and you can feel very weak and fatigued for up to three weeks.
Each year the typical adult can expect to contract a cold twice and 50% risk of catching the flu. When you have conditions such as COPD your immune system is compromised and the damage to your lungs and airways and reduce the normal effect that the body has at naturally protecting itself from germs. There are lots of tips on how to prevent yourself from getting ill, to avoid exacerbations and to cut short the duration and reduce symptoms of your illness.

Eat yogurt for breakfast

The same live cultures that help ease digestive distress can help stave off a cold. Scientists found that people who consumed probiotics had 12 percent fewer upper respiratory infections. Research also showed that the group that took a probiotic supplement with Lactobacillus rhamnosus recovered two days earlier and had symptoms that were 34 percent less severe.

Open a window

Spending the day in a stuffy room with anyone who’s under the weather raises your risk of catching a bug. Letting a little fresh air circulate keeps airborne viral particles on the move, making them harder to pick up.

Turn away from sneezers

Moving out of firing range is crucial as germs carried in sneeze particles can travel 20 feet.

Stop touching your lips

Not touching your face greatly reduces your odds of getting sick. The average person puts a hand on her mouth or nose more than three times an hour. To break the habit, try sitting on your hands when they’re idle.

Get regular sleep

A study found that subjects who slept for fewer than seven hours were nearly three times as susceptible to colds as people who slept for at least eight hours.

Flush out your nose

Throughout cold season, add this to your night-time routine: Rinse your nose using an over-the-counter nasal irrigator or saline solution as it will help clear out viral particles you’ve breathed in during the day before they take root in your system.

Zinc lozenges

Try taking these within 24hrs of the onset of a cold and it will reduce the duration. You can also eat zinc-rich foods. Zinc is a mineral essential to the cells of the immune system and can boost your libido, help wound healing and prevent excessive inflammation.

Keep hydrated

Fluids help to thin out the mucus that your body makes when you’re sick and makes it easier to clear out of your system.

Try elderberry extract

A syrup made from these berries has long been used as a folk remedy for viral infections. The berries’ nutrients seem to offer some relief from congestion, aches and pains and can cut short flu symptoms by four days.

Switch on a humidifier

Dry indoor air makes a sore throat and cough even worse. A humidifier helps these symptoms become more bearable by filling the air you breathe with moisture.

Inhale essential oils

Several times a day, add a few drops of thyme or eucalyptus oil to boiling water, then breathe in the aromatic steam. The menthol-like smell should make your airways feel as if they’re opening up. It’s also thought that antimicrobial particles in these essential oils coat the mucous membrane lining the nasal cavity.

Don’t over-exercise

A bit of light exercise such as walking or yoga can make you feel better and boost your circulation but don’t overdo it as your body needs to conserve energy to fight off the virus.

Gargle with warm salt water

Salt helps kill pathogens and by coating your throat with a salt solution (1/2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water) will ease inflammation and loosen mucus, which helps flush out germs.

Heat up chicken soup

The steam helps open stuffed-up nasal passages, and the salty broth can soothe a sore throat. Research published found that chicken soup has properties that slow the movement of infection-fighting white blood cells; when they move more slowly, they spend more time in the areas of the body that need them most.

Have a spoonful of honey

Honey is believed to be antimicrobial, and its thick, syrupy consistency coats and soothes an irritated throat.

Prop yourself up

When you lie on your back, mucus collects in your sinus cavities, which can lead to secondary infections or chronic sinusitis. Instead, try resting and sleeping at a 45-degree angle. Sitting up slightly will also help blood flow away from the head reducing inflammation of the sinuses and nose.
General tips this flu season include:

  • Washing your hands regularly. Something as simple as a shopping trolley handle, or even a doorknob, can harbour germs. These germs are then entered into our respiratory tract when we touch our face. Washing your hands regularly will reduce the likelihood of catching an illness.
  • Avoid people who are sick. Avoid being in crowded places in public where possible, perhaps go shopping in quieter periods. Consider wearing a surgical masks when you are around large groups of people during peak cold and flu seasons.
  • Diet is very important in COPD management. Aa person with COPD uses a large amount of calories just to breathe and it is important that you get enough “healthy” calories each day to offset this deficit. You should be eating balanced meals and they should also be smaller and more frequent throughout the day. Large meals can actually cause breathlessness (if you use oxygen, wear it while you eat) and digesting large meals actually consumes a large amount of calories that you need to breathe.
  • Get into a regular exercise Doing a little bit each day will improve your health and medical conditions and help to prevent contracting any more illnesses however ensure it is an exercise routine that is safe, comfortable and effective for you. Talk to your doctor for suggested exercise types that would suit you.

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Christmas seasonResearch shows that COPD sufferers are more likely to be hospitalised during the Christmas holiday period than at any other time during the winter. This is in part due to developing respiratory infections on the weeks leading up to Christmas as the weather gets colder but also these are more easily spread at holiday social events, which are more frequent on the lead up to Christmas. With more germs around, colder weather acting as a trigger, increased social occasions and the extra stress of shopping and travelling leading up to Christmas, all increases the risk of infections, frequency of flare-ups and potential hospitalisation. Also remember that over Christmas you may not have as much access to medical assistance so preparation and check-ups before GP surgeries close and other services become minimised is very important.
It is very important to take care of yourself as the weather turns colder to ensure you stay healthy throughout the winter season.
To protect your breathing this holiday season:

  • Wash your hands properly and often
  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Make sure your prescriptions are up-to-date so that you are prepared to treat a flare-up.
  • Keep your medicine on hand.
  • Watch your symptoms and get medical help if you need it.
  • If you’re travelling, take extra supplies of your medicine.
  • Ensure you have enough oxygen supply and an emergency back-up just in case your oxygen requirements increase suddenly or there is a power outage

To prevent flare-ups, avoid these indoor triggers:

  • Decorations: When you get your holiday decorations out of storage remember they are most likely covered in dust. If the area where you store them has dust and mildew, proactively use your inhaler if prescribed one, and wear a mask, scarf or bandana for protection from these particles. Then wipe down all your decorations with a cloth to remove any dust before you deck the halls.
  • Trees: Freshly cut Christmas trees are beautiful but they can also contain pollen and mould spores, which can trigger breathing problems. If you bring home a live tree for the holiday season, rinse it with a hose and let it dry in your garage before bringing it into the house.
  • Hosting: People tend to deep clean their homes before being inundated with guests over Christmas. However excessive use of cleaning products can trigger flare-ups but there are lots of home remedies that work just as well that don’t contain chemical triggers.
  • Scents: Holiday scents can be a great addition to the festivities but things like candles, incense and air fresheners can also be a trigger. While they smell good, they may not be good for you or your guests with respiratory challenges.
  • Be careful of your diet, the holiday season throws up a host of rich and sugary foods but ensure you maintain a well-balanced diet as poor eating and diet can trigger a flare-up or make you more susceptible to a respiratory infection.
  • Be aware of wood smoke from stoves and fireplaces

Cold dry winter air can be a trigger for some people with asthma and COPD:

  • Wear a scarf or face mask over your nose and mouth, to help warm the air before you breathe it in.
  • Breathe through your nose, not your mouth – this also helps warm the air before it reaches your lungs.
  • If you plan to exercise outdoors, first do warm-up exercises indoors.
  • If need be, take a dose of your inhaler or oxygen before you go outside.

If you are prepared and take precautionary measures and monitor your symptoms then you should make it through the holiday season in good health.
Some COPD patients find it easier and safer to not be at home for the depths of winter to avoid ill health and chose to travel abroad to warmer climates, either with their partner or to visit friends and family. This way you can avoid the cold weather and its complications all together. Many find that being on holiday is more relaxing and the warmer weather helps to improve their health. Travelling abroad with oxygen is easy to arrange with a global company that can arrange and supply all your oxygen requirements from the second you step off the plane. Just check with your doctor that you are allowed to fly, look up helpful information on flying with COPD and contact a company, such as Oxygenworldwide who will ensure that your holiday runs smoothly. You do not want to be travelling abroad to ensure the cold doesn’t affect your health to then be faced with other problems abroad so just ensure you use a reputable company and make suitable preparations.

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Extreme Weather Can Trigger Your Asthma

bad weather and how it triggers attacks

For most people, if their asthma is managed properly and under control then the weather should not have much of an effect, however for others extreme weather conditions can bring on symptoms and organisations suggest extra thought and care is taken before heading out in it.
Changes in temperature of the air within your airways can cause inflammation, for most this is not a problem as the nose controls humidity and temperature. With people who suffer from asthma, they tend to breathe more through the mouth and irritants, pollutants and pollen are more of a factor and many already have inflammed airways. The more severe the asthma, the more likely it is that the weather will affect them.
Common weather triggers include:
•    Cold air can cause constriction of airways.
•    Wind and rain-Rainfall can increase and stir up mould spores, and wind can blow around pollen and mould.
•    Heat-increased ozone from smog, exhaust fumes, and pollutants tend to be higher. Dry hot air can also trigger asthma.
•    Lightning-Thunderstorms, which can generate ozone, are now thought of as an asthma trigger.
•    Air pressure fluctuations-Barometric pressure can trigger sinus episodes and sinusitis is a common asthma trigger.
Cold Winter Air:
75% of asthma sufferers say that cold air can trigger asthmatic symptoms. The advice is to ensure that you are managing your asthma and taking any prescribed medication. Just as important is to be prepared. Check the forecast and make sure you carry your inhaler with you, wrap up warm and dry and wrap a scarf around your nose and mouth and try breathing more through your nose and it will help to dehumidify and warm the air up.
Remember that the difference between inside and outside temperature can be a factor so even going in and out of heated shops, or going from a nightclub or pub out into the cold air are all times when you need to look after yourself.
Exercise is very beneficial for people with asthma as it can help improve lung function and improve fitness but over three quarters of people with asthma have told Asthma UK that exercise in colder weather is a trigger for their condition. This is mainly due to the fact that during aerobic exercise you would inhale more of the cold air, breathing it in through your mouth (which means that it is not warmed or moistened by your nose) and breathe it more deeply into your lungs.
There are many things you can do to maintain your exercise regime but avoid the triggers.
•    Exercising indoors or at a gym or gym classes instead of venturing outside.
•    Warm up and warm down for 10-15 mins before and after outside exercise.
•    Dress appropriately with a scarf around your throat and nose.
•    If symptoms begin stop exercising immediately, take your inhaler and wait until you feel better before you resume.
•    Consider more moderate exercise that will reduce the need for such deep breaths like a power walk instead of a run or a more gentle bike ride.
When it is cold many avoid going outside to try and avoid the triggers, however spending more time indoors exposes you to more triggers within the home such as pet hair, smoke, dust mites, fireplaces etc. Many sufferers prepare themselves for this and from being out in the cold by having a back-up home oxygen supply to use when the cold weather has triggered off a bad asthma attack.
More recently it has become apparent that thunderstorms can trigger serious asthma attacks, especially children and young adults, with large numbers of people needing to go to A&E.
It is not fully understood why this happens, but it is thought during a thunderstorm, the windy conditions cause high levels of pollen and mould spores to be swept up high into the air where the moisture breaks them into much smaller pieces. As the pollen and mould particles then settle back down, these smaller pieces of pollen and mould can be breathed into the smaller airways of the lungs where they irritate the airway and trigger asthma symptoms.
Not all thunderstorms trigger asthma, it seems to depend upon the time of year, the humidity, wind, air pressure and whether ozone levels are high.
The advice is to be aware of weather forecasts, try to avoid being caught outside in them and make sure you carry your inhaler.
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