‘Tis the season to be jolly…but if you have a long-term breathing disease like asthma or COPD, ‘tis the season to be on guard, too.
Research shows that people with asthma and COPD are more likely to be hospitalized during the Christmas holiday period. The main reason – people pick up colds and other germs at social events, and these viruses trigger flare-ups. Scented candles and mould found on Christmas trees also trigger symptoms for some people.
In addition, extra stress, travel, getting tired and eating badly can all take their toll on your health during the holidays.
You can protect your breathing this holiday season by taking good care of yourself. You can also take some simple steps to avoid germs and triggers.
To protect your breathing this holiday season:
- Wash your hands properly and often – this poster shows all the steps to proper handwashing. Handwashing is the best way to stop the spread of germs.
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- Get your flu shot each year, and ask your doctor about a pneumonia shot.
- 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 follow the instructions in your action plan.
- Get help if you need it.
- If you’re travelling, take extra supplies of your medicine. Make sure the place you’re staying is free of smoke and other triggers. Read more tips on travelling with COPD.
To prevent flare-ups, avoid these indoor triggers:
- Real Christmas trees, if you are allergic to the mould and pollen often found on branches and needles.
- Dust from holiday decorations that have been in storage. Have someone else wipe them with a damp cloth.
- Scented products, like candles and potpourri
- Wood smoke from stoves and fireplaces (learn more about wood burning)
- Burning wrapping paper
Cold dry winter air can be a trigger for some people with asthma and COPD.
If cold air triggers your asthma or COPD symptoms:
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 quick-relief medicine (rescue inhaler, usually in a blue puffer) before you go outside.
It’s important to manage your lung disease every day, even when you’re feeling good. If your asthma or COPD is well-controlled, you are less likely to have a flare-up. If you don’t have good control of your symptoms, see your doctor.
We wish you a safe and happy holiday and better breathing in the New Year!