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Oregon's asthma problem and how to combat it this winter

Health and Wellness

Generally, we think of asthma as a disease we develop as children, one that inflames the airways and affects our lungs, leading to heavy coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. But anyone can develop asthma. Bronchial constriction or respiratory irritation of any kind that prevents someone from breathing easily is a form of asthma.

Oregonians should know-they struggle with breathing problems more than most Americans. Nearly 11 percent of adults and 8 percent of children have asthma in the state. That's 320,000 adults and 67,000 kids, landing Oregon in the Top 6 states leading the country in asthma rates.

Why so many Oregonians are living with asthma

Hien Bowden, NP"Several factors can be attributed to these high numbers. Oregon is known for its beauty, but the high pollen count from trees and grass, combined with mold and mildew caused by the wet climate, are some of the reasons asthma cases are so high," says Hien Bowden, NP, specializing in family care at Adventist Health's Hoodland Clinic in Welches and at the clinic in Estacada. "Animal fur and tobacco smoke are also major irritants that cause respiratory problems for many of my patients."

So sadly, some of things we enjoy most about Oregon-the gorgeous outdoors, the rain and a love for animals-can make life difficult for people living with asthma.

Cold weather can aggravate asthma and other respiratory problems

Cold weather can also cause an asthma attack or breathing problems, making winter, especially a rainy one like we're having this year, a difficult season for many people. The shock of a cold air blast, whether it's taking a breath on an extra chilly morning or during a ski run down Mount Hood, could lead to breathing problems. Asthma varies in severity and is a case-by-case condition, so talk with your health care provider about ways to manage asthma and other chronic breathing problems.

Adventist Health's tips for Oregonians to breathe better this winter

  • Quit smoking. Exposure to tobacco smoke, whether it's first- or secondhand, harms the lungs and airways and is dangerous for a number of other health reasons.
  • Figure out what's triggering asthma or breathing problems and avoid places where a flare-up could happen.
  • Avoid consuming foods and beverages that cause acid reflux, as acid reflux can aggravate asthma.
  • Purchase a humidifier for your home to maintain the right level of moisture in the air.
  • Inhale through your nose, not your mouth. The nasal cavity helps regulate the temperature and moisture of the air we breathe in.
  • Keep your home clean and free of mold and mildew.
  • Be aware that smoke from wood and pellet stoves can make you more susceptible to breathing problems and asthma. Talk to your health care provider if you are using these sources of heat and are experiencing breathing problems.
  • When outdoors during extreme cold weather conditions, avoid the initial shock of cold air to your respiratory tract that can bring on an asthma attack by wearing a facemask or scarf to warm the air you inhale.
  • If your asthma is not under control, talk to your medical provider about medication as exercising outdoors in cold weather or winter sports like skiing, snowboarding and ice skating can aggravate asthma.

To schedule an appointment with Hien Bowden, NP, call Adventist Health Medical Group – Hoodland at 503-622-3126. Hien Bowden sees patients at the Hoodland Clinic Wednesday and Friday, and at the clinic in Estacada on Tuesday and Thursday.