In western Pennsylvania, the chilly temperatures of the winter months often bring with them some unwanted visitors – Colds and flu. This time of year can be particularly stressful for those with lung conditions like asthma. Colds and flu can act as asthma triggers, thus compounding the problem.

So, what can you do to ensure that you stay healthy, and symptom-free, this winter? Here are our top tips for protecting your lungs during the winter months:
[ File # csp16791795, License # 3334688 ] Licensed through in accordance with the End User License Agreement ( (c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / Talanis Wash your hands: The best way to combat cold and flu germs is to make sure you’re washing your hands regularly. Our hand washing video shows you an ideal technique for making sure your hands get clean.

Stick to your action plan: It’s important to make sure that you have a documented, organized system for managing asthma symptoms as they arise. Your asthma action plan, including all current medications and the symptoms they treat, should always be up to date.

Use your peak flow meter: By regularly using your peak flow meter and staying on top of your readings, you’ll know if you’re headed for trouble before you get there. Classifying your peak flow meter readings into one of three zones, green for readings of 80-100%, yellow for readings 50-80% or red for readings below 50%, can help you determine how well you are managing your symptoms and discuss treatment options with your doctor if needed.

Exercise caution with OTC meds: If you do come down with a cold or the flu, it’s important to talk with a doctor or pharmacist before taking any over the counter medications. This is because some OTC medicines can be dangerous when used in combination with prescription asthma treatments.

Continue using prescribed treatments: Your regular asthma treatments are the backbone for keeping your symptoms in check. Even if you’re using other medicines, OTC or natural, to treat a cold or the flu, you should still continue using your prescribed treatments to avoid a serious asthma event.

Create an emergency kit: Even if you follow all of these tips, it’s still possible that cold and/or flu symptoms could cause your asthma to flare up. Because of this, it’s important to have an emergency kit available just in case. Since the weakest time for many asthma sufferers is typically 3AM to 4AM, make sure you keep a fast-acting rescue inhaler within easy reach. You should also talk with your doctor about other options, like corticosteroids or nebulizer treatments, that you may want to consider for the winter months.

Proper asthma management is important year-round in order to stay symptom free. However, you should take extra care during the winter months to ensure that you avoid cold or flu related flare ups. If you do experience a cold or flu related asthma event, call your doctor right away for recommendations regarding additional treatment.