FRANKLIN — Chill brisk mornings, and sometimes afternoons and evenings, is a hallmark of winter in New Hampshire, but for people with chronic lung diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, reactive airway disease, and bronchitis, the cold air can make lung conditions worse, and even land them back in the hospital.

Management of chronic diseases, especially lung disease, is a major way Franklin VNA and Hospice can help. Cold air can cause the muscles in our lungs to tense up and constrict, making it harder to breath. It also makes it harder for our lungs to absorb oxygen.

A study in the July 2010 issue of the Clinical Respiratory Journal showed that around 20 percent of healthy people experience cold-related respiratory symptoms, but for those with respiratory illness like asthma or chronic bronchitis, more than 70 percent experience cold-related respiratory symptoms.

Some easy steps you can take when going forth into the wintry air include:

• Taking your prescribed medications to help treat your lung disease — always a good step to take. If you have problems doing this for whatever reason, talk to your health care provider for some good solutions.

• If you have a fast-acting inhaler or other emergency medicine to take when breathing difficulties strike, make sure you bring it with you so you can use it when you need it.

• Wear a scarf over our nose and mouth to help warm the air before you inhale it.

• Avoid outside activities in severe cold weather.

• Help your immune system out by getting your flu shot, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding sick individuals.

• Check the Air Quality Index forecasts each day at www.airnow.gov. Checking is good to do during all seasons, but in winter, burning wood to heat our homes can cause high concentrations of particles in the air that can irritate lung tissue.

“The American Lung Association’s website, www.lung.org, is a great resource for how to keep our lungs healthy, whether we have a lung disease or not,” said Tabitha Dowd, executive director of Franklin VNA & Hospice. “The research is overwhelming that managing your chronic respiratory disease is an effective way to reduce unpleasant symptoms, lessen the severity of exacerbations and reduce hospitalizations. We are committed to helping our patients and the community live better, healthier lives. This can help.”

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