Any breathlessness after the age of 40, appearing for the first time in winter, is cardiac asthma unless proved otherwise. Such patients should immediately get their blood pressure checked, which if found high needs immediate medical attention. First-onset breathlessness can also be an indication of angina or heart attack, said Padma Shri, Dr. B C Roy National Awardee & DST National Science Communication Awardee, Dr. K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India and Sr National Vice President Indian Medical Association. However, winter asthma or acute exacerbation of winter COPD (chronic bronchitis) is more common.
Asthma is reversible airway obstruction and COPD is irreversible airway obstruction. Sudden exposure to cold, humidity, pollution at lower levels in atmosphere can precipitate asthma in susceptible individuals. Winter is the time to increase the dose of asthma medicines.
If a person can speak a full sentence, the asthma attack is mild; if a person speaks broken sentences, the asthma attack is moderate and if the person is able to speak only words then the asthma attack is severe. Severe attack of asthma needs immediate hospitalization.
An attack of asthma is due to inflammation, narrowing and collection of fluid in the windpipe and needs medicines to widen the windpipe and reduce the inflammation.
The need of asthma medicines can be intermittent and/or permanent. The ‘Formula of ‘2’ becomes handy in such situations. A person who consumes more than two canisters of inhalers in a year or consumes asthma medicines more than twice in the night time in a month or more than twice in a day in a week, then he or she needs continuous asthma and anti inflammatory medicines. Inhalers are the best choices.