Though in our city the winters are mild and the
temperatures do not touch zero there are certain health problems
that are seen more often in our clinics than others. Asthma is
one of the most common health problems seen during this time of
the year. This is especially true in the case of children.
WHY DOES WINTER BRING ON ASTHMA?
There are a number of reasons and factors, which
make people suffering from asthma more susceptible to getting an
attack during the winter months.
Firstly in our country we celebrate certain festivals
with fire-crackers. This increases the level of pollution in the
air. Also in winter the air pollution stays at a lower level in
the atmosphere making it hard for asthmatics to breathe. The characteristic
SMOG that we see during the winter months contains many particles,
which trouble the respiratory system. This can trigger an attack
in a susceptible individual.
In this weather the humidity in the air decreases
to very low levels. This makes the air dry and devoid of moisture.
In order to compensate for the dryness in the air the lining of
the lungs produces more mucus than normal. This additional thick
mucous can block the airways triggering an asthma attack.
During winter months in those places where the
temperature plunges to nearly zero people tend to stay more indoors.
This makes an asthmatic patient exposed to all the household allergens
like dust mites, irritants like sprays, strong smells and perfumes,
cockroaches, molds and several bacteria and viruses. This closed
environment makes an asthmatic more prone to get infected with some
respiratory tract infection which could trigger an attack.
Also winter months bring on the colds and Flu
season. There are several viruses that cause these respiratory problems.
Staying with someone or being in close contact with a person suffering
from viral cold or flu makes you prone to getting it. This is especially
true for children who are asthmatic.
Physical exertion during these winter months can
also bring on an asthma attack. This is seen more at a higher altitude
where the air is thin and temperatures are very low. Cold air, which
is low in humidity, tends to increase the narrowing and drying effect
exercise has on the airways.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS OF AN ASTHMA ATTACK?
Here are a few of the common signs and symptoms
that a person suffering from asthma experiences.
1. Breathlessness is the main symptom. The patient experiences a
difficulty in breathing and has to exert in order to breathe.
2. The child usually has a cough, which causes problems. This cough
may be dry or with congestion in the chest and comes on very frequently.
3. A wheeze may be heard while breathing. This is because of the
narrowing of the bronchial tubes.
4. Thick mucous may be present which makes respiration more difficult.
5. There might be other respiratory symptoms like cold and blocking
of the nose, which makes the child breathe through the mouth.
6. Flaring of the nostrils, using the neck and other accessory muscles
of respiration is not a good sign.
7. There might be a fever and the patient feels exhausted and fatigued.
8. The child may become cranky and his or her behavior might change.
9. The asthma patient normally experiences a tightness of the chest.
They feel as if a load is there.
10. The appetite decreases as the breathlessness and heaviness of
the chest is worse after eating.
WHAT PRECAUTIONS CAN BE TAKEN TO AVOID ASTHMA
There are a few ways in which you can protect
yourself against getting an attack of asthma.
1. Make sure your immunity is in good shape. This can be achieved
if you lead a healthy lifestyle and diet. If you are allergic to
something or if you are aware of what triggers your attack you should
avoid consuming it.
2. Stay away from those who are already suffering from viral infections
especially colds or flu. If you are in the same house make sure
your things are separate from the infected person. Wash your hands
before you touch your eyes, nose or eat anything.
3. Cover your body well if you have to go out in the cold. Children
should be well clad when going out in this weather. Cover their
mouths and noses with a scarf, this helps warm the air before it
enters the air passages.
4. Increase the child's liquid intake. By this I mean his water
intake and not aerated drinks, milk, tea, coffee etc…
it is best to drink plenty of pure water throughout the day. This
will help in loosening the mucous, which might be blocking the airways.
5. Do not use sprays, pesticides, strong smelling perfumes and odors
in the house especially during these months. Try and make your home
as dust and allergen free as possible.
6. Do not allow your child to over exert. Though exercise and playing
sports is good it should be done in limit.
7. Keep your asthmatic child away from the fire-cracker pollution
if possible. It is a good idea to take a holiday to some place where
this will be minimum.
HOW IS AN ASTHMA ATTACK TREATED AND MANAGED?
There are a number of drugs and inhalers available
for the treatment of an asthma attack. They help either by dilating
the airways or by suppressing the immune reaction of the body to
the allergen. Often steroids are used in the treatment of an attack
and though they are very effective in the longer run they have their
own set of side-effects. Please understand that these are only temporary
measures, which should be given during an acute attack, but it is
not the long term solution to this problem. However let me specify
again that these drugs should be given in order to relieve the patient
either in the form of a tablet, inhaler, syrup or nebulizer in case
of acute attack. Nebulizer is one of the most effective and least
harmful way of dispensing these drugs and should be especially for
The key to treating and managing asthma is to
prevent it from occurring. For this your immune system has to be
in order and under control. The trigger factors should be avoided
both in the environment and in diet. This ideal situation is very
hard to achieve in our daily lives in this city. Environmental changes
and pollution is hard to avoid and people who are susceptible will
get affected. This susceptibility is what we try to remove in our
Homoeopathic system of medicine in order to treat asthma.
There are several factors, which make an individual
susceptible to this problem. Genetically some people inherit this
problem from their ancestors. It is also very closely connected
to your mental and emotional state. If your immunity is disturbed
and you become hypersensitive to external stimulants and environment
then asthma sets in.
In our system of medicine we take into consideration various factors
like the family history, constitution of the affected person, mental
and emotional state, symptoms etc…
This is one of the most effective remedy used
to treat asthma during winter time. The patient feels as if the
air passages are dry. There is also a peculiar feeling as if a plug
is present in the larynx which makes breathing difficult. The respiration
is short, panting and suffocative.
Cough is another important symptom of this remedy. The cough can
be barking, sawing, hollow and is worse in cold air. On examining
there might be a wheezing sound heard in the chest. Though a lot
of mucous is produced the Spongia patient finds it very hard to
bring it up and instead tends to swallow it again.
The asthma is aggravated by lying down especially at night, worse
in winter where there is dry cold air and after exerting. Spongia
patient is always better by eating or drinking something warm.
Give Spongia Tosta 200, 5 pills 4 times a day
to relieve the asthma and eradicate the cough.
I had a very interesting case of a 40 year old
man suffering from asthma. He told me that since the last three
four years he gets these attacks just when winter starts otherwise
throughout the year he is symptom free. He had also observed carefully
that the skin eruptions he suffered from would get better but the
asthma would become worse.
He had a persistent dry hard cough and a feeling of weakness in
All these symptoms were aggravated in cold open air and by the change
in weather. Peculiarly the only thing that gave some relief was
by lying down with his arms apart. This is contrary to the normal
where people suffering from asthma feel worse by lying down.
His wife also added that he was very careful about clothing and
even in summer he would wear warm clothes.
I gave this gentleman Psorinum 200, 5 pills in
constitutional doses which not only helped the asthma but also cured
his skin problems.
This popular homoeopathic remedy is often used
in cases of disorders of the digestive tract. However it is also
effective in treating cases of asthma and other respiratory problems.
The patient feels as if the air passages are constricted and has
to forcibly try to remove the mucous. The breathing is shallow and
There is a dry hacking cough with a feeling of tightness in the
chest. The Nux Vomica patient says that during the asthma attack
he feels as if his clothes are too tight and there is fullness of
All these symptoms are worse early morning, in cold open air, from
drafts of air, strong odours, noise, anger. This patient will get
relief from wrapping up the head or by drinking hot drinks and in
Nux Vomica 200, 5 pills in repeated doses should
be given in order to treat the winter asthma.
A mother brought her 10 year old daughter to me
for asthma. She said that her child had been suffering from this
problem since the time the weather had changed. The child described
her symptoms by saying that she felt as if something was tickling
in the throat and this would start the coughing. Her cough was a
very dry teasing one and this did not allow her to sleep at night.
This child would not allow me to touch her throat or examine her.
The mother said the discharge was thin, watery, with a lot of froth
Lately it had become so bad that even changing the room would cause
a bout of coughing which would them lead to breathlessness.
This child only felt better when she covered her mouth and head
and was worse at night, by uncovering.
I gave her Rumex 200, 5 pills 4 times a day with all the dietary
restrictions which eventually cured her completely.
I would like to state that this article is written
in order to make people aware that Homoeopathy has wonderful treatment
for problems of asthma during winter. However self medication is
not advised and you must visit a physician. Also as I have mentioned
earlier for an acute attack other medication can and should be given
in order relieve the patient along with the Homoeopathic medicine.
In this manner the frequency and severity of the attacks will gradually
reduce and the need for other medicines, inhalers, nebulizers will
Readers are advised
that the medical advice offered in this column pertains to generalised
treatment of condition. Kindly consult your doctor before self-medication.