When you have asthma, the flu and cold season is more worrisome than for those without suffering with asthma. Viral illnesses can worsen asthma symptoms and the flu can also cause severe lower respiratory infections in asthmatics. This is because people with asthma have swollen or sensitive airways, and influenza can cause further inflammation of the airways and lungs. Influenza can lead to pneumonia and other acute respiratory diseases. Asthma attacks can be caused by “triggers” such as airway infections, allergies, pets, smoke, mold, chemical irritants, and air pollution, amongst many others.
“When someone with asthma breathes in a trigger, the insides of the airways make extra mucus and swell even more. This narrows the space for the air to move in and out of the lungs. The muscles that wrap around your airways can also tighten, making breathing even harder. When that happens, it’s called an asthma flare-up, asthma episode or asthma ‘attack,’” according to the American Lung Association. There are other triggers as well. Exercise is a key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, the type of exercise, location, and potential irritants in that location can worsen your asthma.
People with exercise-induced asthma have airways that are overly sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and humidity, especially when breathing colder, drier air, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI).
During strenuous activity, people tend to breathe through their mouths. Mouth breathing allows cold, dry air directly into the lungs, without benefit of the warmth and moisture that nose breathing supplies. As a result, air is moistened to only 60-70% relative humidity. Nose-breathing, meanwhile, warms and saturates air to about 80 to 90% humidity.
As practitioners, it is important for you to monitor the health of your patients, their exercise program, and ensure spirometry is part of your patient monitoring and diagnosis. For more information on spirometry and asthma in your practice, visit www.mdspiro.com.