Managing Your Asthma When Hiking
Asthma, especially mild asthma, is no reason to give up a love the great outdoors. If you have been diagnosed with any form of asthma, including both sports-induced and allergy-related asthma, then you simply need to be better prepared before heading out on a hike or into the back country. The following tips can help keep you breathing easily as you embark upon your next outdoor adventure.
Tip #1: Know your triggers
Most asthma attacks have a trigger. If you are aware of what normally triggers your attacks, you can be better prepared to prevent them, or at least reduce the severity. For example, if your attacks are normally triggered by allergies, either avoid hiking in peak allergen season, take the proper anti-allergy medications, or wear a face mask to block out triggering pollens. If exertion tends to trigger an attack, then slow down when you feel yourself getting out of breath or take it slower when climbing a steep hill. Prevention is much preferable to treating an attack.
Tip #2: Ask for a rescue inhaler
Not all asthmatics need to use an inhaler during the course of their normal daily lives. Your doctor may not prescribe one if your attacks tend to be mild and easily controlled. In this case, you should still request a rescue inhaler prescription for when you are hiking or camping. The reason is simple – unlike in town, if an attack progresses beyond its normal severity when you are in the back country, help isn't a quick phone call away. It's better to be prepared for a worst-case scenario when you are away from civilization. Your doctor can fully brief you on how to use the inhaler and when it should be used.
Tip #3: Breathe warm air
Sometimes an inhaler may fail to work, or perhaps you forgot to bring it, so what then? The key is to stay calm and take steps to ease the constriction around the airways. This constriction tends to occur from one of two things—an allergic reaction to particles in the air or a reaction to colder air in the airways. Both can be remedied by breathing through a bandana or strip of thin fabric. This helps filter out irritants and warms the air that is being breathed in, which causes the muscles around the airways to relax. Breathe out through pursed lips to help forcefully expel the air trapped in the lungs.
Depending on your exact diagnosis, you may also be prescribed other asthma medications or an epinephrine injector to help manage attacks. Talk to an asthma doctor at a medical center like North Texas Allergy for more help.