With the holiday season fast approaching and with added travel and holiday stress, a change in sleeping behavior may affect your asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Here are some helpful tips this holiday season that may help prevent exacerbation of asthma or COPD. The common symptoms of bronchial asthma are nighttime cough, wheezing and shortness of breath. The common exacerbation cause of bronchial asthma is respiratory tract infection, postnasal drip, gastroesophagel reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn.
1. Sleep adequately. You will want to sleep a little longer and go to bed earlier by the start of the holiday season if you feel there will be sleep deprivation on the weekend if you are planning to stay up late. Maybe, if this is the case, you will want to start going to bed a half an hour to an hour earlier from now on so that it helps the immunity and prevents infection.
2. Avoid junk food. Needless to say, it is very tempting but it may be a good idea to replace junk food snacks with good and healthy foods, thereby preventing bronchospasm, mucus formation, and nighttime symptoms of bronchial asthma. Cookies, pasties, etc., have refined sugar, which cause mucus formation and bronchospasm. Making sure a high-fiber diet is continued during the holiday season so there are normal bowel movements every day in the morning helps to prevent bronchospasm. If one is not getting a high-fiber diet regularly, he/she may help with starting one. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables helps. Apples, pears, grapes, strawberries, carrots, cabbage, and spinach to name a few, are good sources of healthy fiber. Understanding the basics of the diet and what needs to be avoided on a regular basis may help prevent exacerbation of asthma. Avoid dairy products such as cold food, ice cream (produces bronchospasm and mucus), bananas (increases sputum production and chest congestion), cold water or ice water or ice drinks also increase bronchospasm and replace them with room temperature water or drinks. Just like cold weather makes asthma worse, so do cold liquids and drinks which create winter inside the body. It slows stomach digestion, producing bronchospasm. We have seen in our practice that stopping this has decreased the need of a rescue inhaler by more than 50% in about 6 weeks in many asthma patients and in many after only a few months. It may help if one is looking for ideas that help to decrease the need for rescue inhaler use.
3. Compliance with the treatment of bronchial asthma. Continue the regular inhalers, nebulizers and other medication as prescribed by your health care professional. Understand the correct technique of the inhaler or nebulizer. Get familiar with the medication and its normal dose, the maximum dose that is allowed and its common side effects. If you feel that you are getting any of the side effects, let your doctor know about it. Make sure you rinse your mouth after the use of the inhaler or nebulizer to prevent oral thrush. Use the peak flow meter to check the asthma symptoms and keep a log of it. If one is a smoker than smoking cessation is the key to improve health, otherwise bronchial asthma or COPD will not get better and with time it will get worse. Inhalers or medication will not work with ongoing smoking. A person can end up with respiratory failure and be on a ventilator with ongoing smoking if asthma or COPD exacerbation cannot be controlled with nebulizers, steroids and antibiotics. Smoking cessation is key.
4. Exercise. Regular exercise helps to prevent the bronchospasm and chest congestion. In patients with exercise-induced bronchospasm, they may need to take the inhaler prior to work out. This is equally true for the patient with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as well as bronchial asthma patients.
5. Yoga and Pranayama. Pranayama are the breathing exercises of yoga. One may learn Pranayama and many other exercises of yoga to reduce stress from a local yoga instructor, which may help prevent bronchospasm, chest congestion, and nighttime wheezing. Yoga exercise is very different from a regular work out or aerobic exercise. After yoga, one may feel more relaxed and calm. Both exercises have their own merits and limitations and based on one’s personality one may favor one over the other. The goal is to do one or both than none at all.
In our practice, we have patients with severe persistent bronchial asthma symptoms on round-the-clock inhalers and nebulizers with multiple modalities of treatment and exercise. Yoga has shown such improvement in some patients that they do not need a need of inhalers or nebulizers. The point here is to say that yoga exercise and/or other regular or aerobic exercises do help if one does them regularly and helps the asthma symptoms as well as overall health when done regularly along with medical treatment.