Asthma Attack Caused by Cold: Signs and Coping Ways

A sore throat, stuffy nose, fever, cough or other symptoms and signs caused due to a flu (influenza) virus, cold or respiratory infection can create nuisance for any individual. But in persons who suffer from asthma, even a minor cold may cause symptoms of wheezing or tightness in chest. Flu infection and common cold is the common cause of flare-ups of asthma, particularly in children.

Why Can Cold Increase Your Risk of an Asthma Attack?

Although it is a known fact that the risk of getting an attack of asthma is increased by flu and colds, the reason of this link is not well understood. According to latest research, when asthma patients gets flu or cold, the levels of a protein that is inflammatory in nature are raised in the cells lining the airways. This may trigger a series of inflammatory reactions, leading to narrowing of airways and resulting in a cold induced asthma attack.

Signs and Symptoms of an Asthma Attack

Same symptoms are not present in every person having asthma. Symptoms may also differ from one episode to another, ranging from mild to severe.

Asthma is not associated with symptoms of fever, muscle aches, chills or sore throat. Some of the common symptoms of asthma are:

  • Coughing frequently
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in chest

How to Manage Asthma and Colds

Despite your efforts to be healthy, it is inevitable to get an occasional infection of flu or cold, particularly in children. Some of the tips to manage colds and asthma include:

  • Visit your physician if you start having a flare up of asthma while you are ill. If you are suffering from the flu, getting treatment during the early stages with a prescription medicine or antiviral drug may not only help relieve your symptoms but also make your recovery faster.
  • Follow the action plan for asthma to prevent cold induced asthma. If you observe warning signs and symptoms of an attack of asthma such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath or tightness of chest, adjust your medicines according to the action plan for asthma provided by your physician. If your physician has not given an asthma action plan, ask them to make one for you.
  • Rest and take proper care of yourself. Rest during the illness. Drink lots of fluids. Under the guidance of your physician, use OTC flu or cold medicines to ease symptoms. These medicines don’t treat the illness but they can at least relieve your symptoms.
  • Monitor your peak flow rate. Using a peak flow meter, monitor the functioning of your lungs every day. Measure the readings at the same time of the day every day. If there is a drop in the peak flow rate, you can adjust your medicines under the direction of your physician.
  • Seek immediate help if symptoms become severe. Get immediate medical attention if you develop severe trouble in breathing or if extreme soreness develops in your throat. Also visit your physician if you develop any signs of pneumonia, including chills, high fever, sharp pain on deep breathing, sweats or coughing that produces colored sputum.
  • Stay at home. While you are sick and having cold induced asthma, stay at your home from work or school to prevent the spread of infection. Cover your nose and mouth with a clean tissue while you sneeze or cough. Generally, you can spread infection one day before the appearance of symptoms and up to one week or so after that.

How to Prevent Colds

Unfortunately, no guaranteed method exists to prevent flu or cold. But you can take some simple steps to decrease your risk of getting the infection.

  1. Wash Your Hands Often

Flu and cold viruses are often spread by touching an infected surface such as a door knob and then touching your face. This transfers the virus to your eyes or nose. When you wash your hands repeatedly with warm water and mild soap, you reduce the risk of getting infected. Also, try and not touch your eyes and nose too frequently. Washing hands is the best method to prevent the spread of infection; however, you can also use antiviral hand foams, especially when you are not at home and are not able to wash your hands.

  1. Take Proper Care of Yourself

To boost your immunity and prevent an attack of cold induced asthma, eat a healthy and balanced diet, which has plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, do regular exercise and ensure that you get enough sleep.

  1. Consider Getting a Flu Vaccine

Speak to your physician about whether you require a flu vaccine each year before the flu season starts. The flu vaccine is designed to protect you from the specific flu viruses, though it does not provide protection from all of the flu viruses. However, not every person suffering from asthma requires a flu vaccine. Your physician may suggest a flu vaccine if:

  • You require a preventive inhaler.
  • You are taking steroid tablets.
  • You have to visit a hospital due to an attack of asthma.
  • You suffer from another medical illness or risk factor for which flu vaccine is advisable.

If your physician recommends a flu vaccine, then you should get it between September and November, before flu viruses are active.