HYDERABAD - With the advent of winter patients suffering from asthma and chest related diseases rise and severe asthmatic attacks become likely in the following days. Talking to this agency here on Wednesday, pulmonologist of LUMHS Professor Dr Rashid Ahmad Khan said that patients suffering from asthma were likely to have severe attacks due to falling temperature in Sindh province. He said asthma could attack people of any age group and was not restricted to childhood or old age. He further said that cold weather and environmental pollution multiply the number of patients suffering from asthma and other chest and respiratory diseases.

Dr Rashid advised people to keep themselves warm and consult their doctors to avoid unnecessary problems. Inhalers are the safest way to deliver asthma medication to the lungs, and these are not habit - forming as commonly perceived by the patients in this country. It is wrong to think that inhalers are given only in the advanced stage of the disease, he explained.

He said two types of medicines could be delivered through inhaler, the first are quick relief medicines known as bronchodilators and the other group is called presenters and these are anti inflammatory agents which includes steroids. He said that these medicines when taken regularly prevent asthma attacks.

Dispelling fears about the use of steroids, he said that steroid taken in the inhaled form are very safe and currently the best available medicines for the prevention of asthma attacks. He said according to data, majority of patients visiting the different hospitals in Hyderabad and other healthcare facilities have had complaints of common cold and flu (influenza).

He said the majority of patients visiting outpatient department of the hospital are with common cold and flu, the common infections of upper respiratory tract involving nose, throat, ears and sinuses. He said the people were unaware of the fact that in severe cold, if proper care was not taken, complications such as ear and sinus infections in case of cold and pneumonia in case of flu may occur.

He explained that cardiac patients and patients with high blood pressure and diabetes face complications in winter mainly because they become inactive and do not do any exercise and as a result their bodies do not lose salts. He suggested that such patients should continue regular physical activity including walk in winter but not early in morning and evening or night when the mercury falls to much lower level.

He advised that the common cold and flu in children should not be taken lightly as these might lead to lower respiratory tract infections including pneumonia. Severe cold dry air may cause respiratory tract infections and as well trigger asthma in persons of all age groups. “It is need of the time to create awareness among public regarding protection from infections,” said Dr Rashid Khan. It is important to note that more than 265,000 Pakistani children die each year from pneumonia, making it one of the leading killers of children under five years of age. He suggested that cold weather conditions should be avoided strictly and to avoid impact of harsh weather, heating systems should be used in a proper way. Use of hot drinks including green tea, tea and coffee may help avoid health threats in winter as these keep body warm and also soothe the throat, he said. He added that sudden exposure to cold should also be avoided as it causes multiple muscular pains. Aged persons and children should avoid going outside homes in extreme weather conditions, at mornings and evenings.

Dr Mir said early in the morning and at night, the extreme cold may cause wetting of clothes that is one of the major causes of hypothermia and it should be avoided. He suggested the asthma patients should eat a balanced diet. He advised that any person suffering from a cough and chest pain for more than three weeks or fever for over two weeks or presenting unexplained weight loss or blood stained sputum, must consult an expert for diagnosis.