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Wear a scarf call to protect against asthma

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
woman shivering in cold outside

4th December 2017 – People with asthma are being encouraged to wear a scarf on cold winter days to lessen the risk of having an asthma attack.

Most people with the condition say that breathing cold winter air makes their symptoms worse, says Asthma UK. It says this is because cold and damp air irritates the airways and causes them to tighten.

Life threatening

Dr Andy Whittamore, a GP and clinical lead for Asthma UK, says: "Most people aren't keen on the nights drawing in and weather getting colder, but for many people with asthma, just going outside on a cold day can be life-threatening.

"Living in the UK means that cold weather is impossible to avoid over winter, but if people have asthma, simply wrapping a scarf around their nose and mouth can warm up the air before they breathe it in, reducing their risk of having an asthma attack."

There are 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK, and the charity estimates that three-quarters find their symptoms worsen during cold weather. The findings are based on a survey of 1,542 people with the condition.

'Like breathing through a straw'

Debbi Wood, 58, from Portsmouth, has visited A&E several times because of winter asthma attacks. "I’ve had asthma for nearly 30 years, but you never get used to the feeling of having an asthma attack," she told the charity. "It’s terrifying and feels like breathing through a tiny straw.

"Cold air has been such a problem for me, and even walking the distance between my house and my car in the early mornings would trigger asthma attacks so bad I would have to go to hospital."

Celebrity endorsement

The charity's annual #Scarfie campaign says wrapping a scarf loosely over the nose and mouth could help avoid a life-threatening asthma attack.

Its message 'a scarf could save a life', is backed by celebrities including Stephen Fry, Olympic athlete Jo Pavey and This Morning's GP Dr Ranj Singh.

However, Asthma UK is warning that a scarf is not a replacement for taking normal asthma medications.

Every day, the lives of 3 families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.

In 2016, there were 1,370 deaths caused by asthma in England, Scotland and Wales.

Fourteen of the deaths were children under 15.

Reviewed on December 04, 2017

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