Tag Archives: asthma

Tips for Managing Asthma in Winter

Winter can be a tumultuous time for asthmatics. Between the cold air, Christmas trees and backed-up dust, many asthmatics experience a noticeable spike in symptoms this time of year. So, what can be done?

Have Your Puffer Handy

This one sounds obvious, but many moderate-to-severe asthmatics let themselves become a little forgetful sometimes about medications and that is not ideal. Asthma can be a life-threatening condition, claiming over 4,000 American lives annually, so the condition is not one to trifle with. Just the same as an anaphylactic person would always carry their EpiPen, an asthmatic should never go anywhere without their puffer. A good rule of thumb is to put a rescue inhaler in each purse or bag you use regularly, another in your car, as well as having a few around the house.

Avoid Sub-Zero Workouts

The cold, dry air of winter can wreak havoc on hypersensitive lungs. Cold air acts as a trigger for asthma or COPD by causing the airways to narrow (bronchial constriction), which makes it much more difficult to breathe. Exercising outdoors in cold temperatures increases this risk twofold by adding the already-present dangers of physical exertion on asthmatic lungs to the constriction caused by the cold. It is not a good idea for asthmatics to exercise in cold weather, but if you must, wear a scarf over your face and take your puffer beforehand (and take it along with you while you exercise, in case of an attack).

Avoid Winter Triggers

It goes without saying that you’ll have an easier season if you do your best to avoid triggers that usually cause attacks for you. While summer poses more dangers for many asthmatics such as pollen and humidity, winter carries its own respiratory risks. Aside from cold air, some common winter asthmatic triggers include:

  • Wood burning stoves – Not all asthmatics react to smoke, but many do. Wood smoke is thick and can be a major trigger for an asthmatic enclosed in a home with a wood-burning stove going.
  • Christmas trees – it usually isn’t the tree itself that causes any problems, but the types of mold growing on them. Mold is a common trigger for those with asthma or allergies.
  • Forced air heating – forced air heating can cause problems for asthmatics because it can create issues with mold as well as constantly stir up dust mites.

Rework Your Management Plan

Sometimes attempting to avoid potential triggers isn’t enough to keep your asthma under control in the winter. If you are finding more wheeziness, coughing or chest tightness than usual, talk to your doctor (or one of ours!) today to look at readjusting your asthma management plan for the season.

Thanks for visiting DocChat! Stay happy and healthy.

Asthma Vs Chronic Bronchitis

We took a look at acute bronchitis in our last post. Next up is chronic bronchitis, which is characterized by a mucus-producing cough and related symptoms that last longer than 3 months. In cases of chronic bronchitis, inflammation of the respiratory tract is persistent and never resolves itself completely. Over 80% of cases are caused by smoking or long-term second hand exposure to smoke. In other cases, long-term exposure to chemical irritants or heavy pollution may cause chronic bronchitis (which is a subtype of COPD).

What are the symptoms of bronchitis?

  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in chest
  • A dry or productive cough
  • Excess mucus production
  • Feeling of general malaise
  • Mild chills or fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Is it Bronchitis or Asthma?

If you seem to continually get bouts of acute bronchitis, there may be more at the heart of the matter. Often people who are diagnosed with bronchitis several times a year actually have asthma (or a COPD-related condition). There are different types of asthma such as exercise induced, allergic-asthma and seasonal asthma, all of which produce symptoms that can mimic bronchitis. Because asthma also causes excess mucus and swelling (of the muscles surrounding the bronchial tract), flare-ups can be easily mistaken for acute bronchitis.

Asthmatic Bronchitis

Alternately, it is very possible to experience both conditions simultaneously. Asthmatics are prone to a special type or bronchitis called asthmatic bronchitis. This happens when the lining of the airways is swollen (bronchitis), along with the muscles surrounding the airways (asthma). This double respiratory whammy can be very serious and is often treated with steroids. Asthmatic bronchitis is typically not contagious (unless it was initially caused by a virus).

What is the Difference Between Chronic Bronchitis and Asthma?

While both chronic bronchitis and asthma are chronic conditions of the respiratory system that involve swelling, chest tightness, coughing and shortness of breath, they do have some marked differences as well:

  1. Asthmatics typically experience more symptoms in the night times such as wheezing and chest tightness, while COPD sufferers have a characteristic morning cough that produces sputum.
  2. Asthmatics commonly have related allergies and sensitivities that sometimes act as triggers for asthma attacks, whereas chronic bronchitis is most often associated with long-term exposure to harmful chemicals.
  3. While doctors may prescribe some similar puffers to help control both conditions, treatment can be quite different.
  4. The most notable difference between the two conditions is the prognosis. Generally speaking, asthma is more controllable and does less damage than COPD-related conditions like chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis is more of a progressive disease that can leave destruction of the lungs in its wake. When a person has an asthma attack, the structures of the lungs return to normal with treatment. However, the lungs of a person with COPD may keep deteriorating slowly.

Both conditions require long-term maintenance and follow-up to ensure the treatment plan in place is still effective. Our DocChat physicians are standing by 24/7/365 to provide any assistance you may need. Thanks for visiting!




Telemedicine – A Convenient HealthCare Choice for Winter Problems

Of all seasons, the convenience of telemedicine shines brightest in the winter. Who wants to venture out in the snowy cold to deal with a day of doctor’s appointments or ER waiting rooms when you can see a telemedicine doctor in under 15 minutes? There is no reason to risk a slip-and-fall on the way to the doctor if you can see one from the comfort of your own home. Let’s take a look at some common winter health issues that can easily be treated by telemedicine:

  1. Skin problems – The cold dry air of winter can exacerbate many skin conditions such as eczema and xerosis (extremely dry skin). Sometimes a prescription cream such as a topical corticosteroid is necessary to help winter-related skin flares, but why spend a whole day dealing with a doctor’s appointment or walk-in clinic in the cold when there is another option? You can be connected with a board-certified doctor in minutes who can take a look at your skin via video or photos and prescribe the exact cream you need in minutes flat.
  2. Colds and Respiratory infections – Cold and flu season brings with it more cold germs and infectious bacteria than any other time of year. Do you find you can’t shake the sniffles or worried you may have a sinus infection? Telemedicine can help! Our doctors are emergency experienced and ready to help with any of your sniffling, coughing and sneezing needs!
  3. Too-cold extremities – Do your hands or feet change color in winter and refuse to warm up? You may have Raynaud’s (or another circulation problem), so why not have a telemedicine doc take a look at your skin and deliver a diagnosis along with any necessary treatment? Or, has your skin looked different since you stayed out in the cold too long? If you’re worried you may have gotten a little frostnip (the first stage of frostbite), and want a doctor’s opinion, there’s no quicker or more opportune way to get it than via telemedicine.
  4. Sore throats – If you’ve had a sore throat for a few days and want to make sure you don’t have strep throat or another type of contagious illness, give telemedicine a try. Board certified doctors will look at your photos and look at your throat via high-definition video technology to determine whether you need prescription treatment or not.
  5. Arthritis flares – For reasons not completely explained by medical science, many arthritis sufferers experience flare-ups in the cold winter months. If you’re one of these people, avoid venturing out on the dangerous ice where you could slip and hurt yourself further. Telemedicine doctors can help with chronic condition management, so give it a try today!
  6. Chronic respiratory condition flares – if you have COPD or asthma, you probably find the winter cold to be extremely hard on the lungs. If so, your symptoms likely increase in the winter. Telemedicine doctors can assess your condition and alter your prescription treatment as necessary to help you get through the winter a little easier.

Are you convinced? Give telemedicine a try today! Thanks for visiting DocChat, we hope you’ll return again soon.







25 Potential Causes of a Chronic Cough

A chronic cough is defined as a persistent cough that lasts more than 8 weeks (but often lasts for months or years). A persistent cough can be idiopathic (no cause is identified), a symptom of an underlying medical condition or even a side effect from certain medications. Some potential medical causes for a chronic cough include:

  1. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  2. Asthma
  3. Chronic rhinitis or sinusitis
  4. Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD)
  5. Chronic eosinophilic bronchitis
  6. Cystic fibrosis
  7. Congestive heart failure
  8. Post nasal drip (PND)
  9. Certain medications (such as Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  10. Sarcoidosis
  11. Smoking or chronic exposure to occupational chemicals
  12. Malignant or benign lung tumor
  13. Vitamin B12 deficiency
  14. Chronic infections
  15. Whooping cough
  16. Recurrent aspiration
  17. Tonsil enlargement or chronic tonsillitis
  18. Sleep apnea or other chronic snoring problems
  19. Partially collapsed lung
  20. Allergies (like severe pollen or scent allergy)
  21. Histoplasmosis
  22. Pulmonary fibrosis
  23. Tuberculosis
  24. Walking pneumonia
  25. Bronchiectasis (damaged airways)

If you are experiencing a cough that won’t go away, you should see your doctor soon for some diagnostic testing so he or she can rule out potentially serious causes and provide you with treatment. Or, our board certified physicians can also help you identify possible reasons for your cough and provide treatment. Thanks for visiting DocChat!



10 Great Types of Exercise for Asthmatics

When you’re an asthmatic, exercise can be a daunting notion that prompts images of wheezing, coughing and chest tightening, but it doesn’t have to be that way. While intense cardiovascular exercise can trigger dangerous asthma attacks, studies have proven that routine light-to-moderate exercise is actually quite beneficial for most asthmatics and can help increase lung capacity. Let’s look at some of the better types of exercise for asthmatics to try:

  1. Walking is perhaps tied with swimming as the best exercise choice for asthmatics. It gets you moving and gets that heart rate up without making your lungs head into spasm territory. One recent study found that those who walked multiple times weekly showed improved overall control of asthma symptoms than those who didn’t. Walking is also great because you can do it outdoors if conditions are okay, or take it indoors on a treadmill when winter air becomes too harsh on the lungs.
  2. Swimming is another ideal exercise type for asthmatics. It can be as mild or as vigorous as you choose, and the humid environment may help breathing and help to loosen mucus in asthmatics.
  3. Yoga can be doubly beneficial for asthmatics as it not only works out the body at a slow, lung-friendly pace, but the deep breathing techniques central to the practice are great for getting the stale air out of an asthmatic’s lungs and helping increase breath capacity. Namaste, indeed!
  4. Certain sports like volleyball and baseball are great choices as they aren’t too strenuous and combine periods of rest with periods of light to moderate activity. Basketball or football would not be good choices, however, because they require longer periods of high-intensity running and exertion.
  5. Weight training wouldn’t cause the lungs to work in overdrive the same as intense cardiovascular exercise would.
  6. Leisurely level-ground biking – Fast-paced or uneven terrain biking may be too hard on an exercise-induced asthmatic, however, light, level-ground biking could be just what the doctor ordered. It may provide enough resistance and require enough energy that it can help expand the lungs without inciting an attack.
  7. (Light) interval training – high intensity interval training (HIIT) is a very popular exercise trend as of late, for many good reasons. If you are severely asthmatic, you may want to leave off the “high intensity” part and just focus on any kind of exercise done in bursts between little rest breaks.
  8. Balance ball exercises – There are many balance ball exercise regimens out there that wouldn’t serve as an obstacle for an asthmatic, but would provide for them a well-balanced workout.
  9. Ballet – would probably be one of the least cardiovascular-based dance types for an asthmatic to more comfortably try. Ballet is an excellent workout, requiring the use of almost all your muscles and instilling great bodily discipline.
  10. Martial arts is another activity that allows for rest breaks between short bursts of activity, which can be very beneficial for asthmatics. It is also good for breath training and mental well-being.

We hope this post gave you some good exercise ideas for the asthmatics in your life! Thanks for visiting DocChat, if you have any medical questions remember our board certified physicians are standing by 24/7/365 to help!

What is Post-Nasal Drip?

Everyday our bodies produce over a quart of mucus, but some people produce excess mucus or mucus that is too thick to easily swallow and it uncomfortably drips down the throat. This condition is called post-nasal drip (PND). Let’s look at some PND facts now:

  • What is mucus? It’s a thick substance that helps moisten the nose, throat, airways and intestinal tract and protect the body against potentially harmful or infectious foreign substances (like bacteria) by trapping them.
  • When this mucus goes haywire, uncomfortable issues ensue, like chronic coughing, an ever-present need to clear your throat and can even lead to an ear or sinus infection.
  • Many things can lead to PND, some common causes are: allergies, asthma, colds or flus, sinusitis or rhinitis, medications, a deviated septum or even pregnancy!
  • Weather changes or dry air can contribute to PND as well.
  • Spicy foods and dairy can lead to worsening of the condition.
  • Swallowing issues like GERD may cause a build up on mucus and can be misdiagnosed as PND.
  • There are various OTC and prescription medications to help treat PND such as: antihistamines, decongestants (for non-asthmatics), saline sprays or corticosteroid nasal sprays.
  • Breathing in steam or peppermint oil steam can help thin out the mucus and loosen it from the nasal walls and throat so you can get rid of it easier.
  • Invest in a humidifier for your room, as the humidity can help thin out the mucus.
  • Drinking plenty of water can also thin your mucus and make it easier to get rid of naturally.

Some natural remedies for PND include:

  • A natural nasal irrigation with baking soda and salt
  • Gargle with warm sea-salt water
  • Eat roasted garlic which is a natural anti-inflammatory
  • Drink ginger tea which has decongestant properties

If all else fails, try some good old fashioned chicken soup! This comfort food may help relieve you momentarily. Thanks for visiting DocChat, we hope you’ll return again soon!

Can Coffee Help Asthma?

In short, yes, drinking enough coffee can help ease some of the symptoms of asthma such as wheezing and coughing because it contains caffeine, which acts like a bronchodilator. Specifically, caffeine mimics the effects of an older asthma medication called theophylline, which relieves breathlessness and wheezing by opening the airways.

Don’t Switch Your Meds For Perk

Studies have shown that drinking 2-3 highly caffeinated beverages such as coffee (coffee and tea are among the most caffeinated, followed by certain sodas) may help alleviate some asthma symptoms for even up to hours after initial onset. However, others argue you’d need too much coffee to see a significant benefit. Furthermore, coffee is not as effective as actual asthma medications so people certainly shouldn’t be putting down their puffers in place of a cup of joe. In an emergency where a asthmatic has no access to puffers, 2-3 cups of coffee could potentially help keep the stabilize their condition until emergency care is in place, but this isn’t foolproof. Some medical professionals do suggest a couple cups a day as preventative asthma care. Besides, most current asthmatic puffers work better and for longer than theophylline (with fewer side effects), so while coffee would be an okay substitute in a pinch, the effects may pale in comparison to today’s emergency asthma medications.

Can Coffee Interfere With Lung Function Tests?

Quality clinical trials have been conducted to look into just how closely caffeine mimics the effects of asthma medications, specifically when it comes to lung function tests. Many of these studies have shown that drinking certain amounts of coffee can actually sway a lung function test, making the person perform better than if they would have without the coffee. So the benefits may not be enough to stop an attack mid-wheeze, but there must be some merit to the coffee cure if asthmatics should avoid caffeine before performing a respiratory test!

Coffee Beans And Scents

There is little to no empirical research to back up this next claim, but many homeopathic and some medical professionals have suggested sniffing coffee beans for asthmatics who react very badly to scents. Taking a little baggie full of fresh coffee beans in public and having a little sniff could potentially block some scents from effecting you quite as adversely as without the blockers. Is there any truth to it? It is hard to say, but consider this: coffee beans have long been used to neutralize the nostrils between perfume testings, so why wouldn’t they be effective for blocking scents you may breeze by while shopping? Anything is worth a try even if it helps that tiny little bit.

The Bottom Line

So it seems having a few cups of coffee during a bout of wheezes can have a moderate bronchodilation effect, but it shouldn’t be something you rely on too heavily, and you certainly shouldn’t be replacing any puffers with coffee. However, it is good information to know and could indeed help someone in an emergency who doesn’t have access to medication and a couple cups of black coffee a day may well provide some day-to-day asthma relief. Just to note, a much more effective alternative medication for asthma attacks which many people unfortunately don’t know about is an adrenaline autoinjector. EpiPens may be for allergies, but they can save the life of an asthmatic having a serious attack just as effectively.

Thanks for reading! We hope you visit DocChat again soon!




Could Cockroaches Be Triggering Your Allergic Asthma?

Are your allergies or asthma out of control year-round and you’ve been dusting regularly, avoiding harsh chemicals and taking all the other necessary precautions to no avail? You just may have a creepy crawly allergic asthma trigger scuttling around your home! According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), the number of asthmatics who are affected by insects like cockroaches could be as high as 60%. Moreover, it is estimated that 63% of rural homes and up to 98% of urban dwellings across America contain a few of these little troublemakers.

But…But How Do Cockroaches Trigger Allergic Asthma?

Similar to the other highly allergenic insect (the dust mite), cockroach allergies stem from skin and body parts they shed, feces they leave around and from their saliva, so your allergy is not actually to the insect themselves. All this bothersome matter is unknowingly stirred up into the air as the inhabitants of the house move about, clean and go about their daily business. This can cause troublesome symptoms in allergic asthma and allergy sufferers. German and Palmetto cockroaches are the two most common culprits in North America.

Allergic Symptoms to Cockroaches

Asthmatic Symptoms:

  • Wheezing and shortness of breath
  • A nagging cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Sleep disturbances because of asthma symptom flares
  • Recurrent asthma attacks

Cockroaches can induce full blown, dangerous asthma attacks. If you or the person you are caring for begins wheezing profusely, breathing rapidly, having trouble breathing or has a blue tinge to the lips or nails, call for emergency treatment right away.

What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?

If you think your allergies or asthma may be irritated by cockroaches, book an appointment with an allergist to be tested for the allergen. This may not help if it is your asthma that is bothered, but the allergist will be able to determine whether cockroaches are making you wheeze. She may prescribe medications to help ease your symptoms, or suggest immunization allergy shots in some cases. The best thing you can do to ease your discomfort is try to control the infestation by cleaning regularly (even in tight spots, they like to hide), eliminate clutter, keep food tightly sealed and hire an exterminator to assess your roach problem and take care of it.

So, there you have it! We all knew they were pesky, but roaches actually may be making you sick! If you have any questions about cockroach allergies feel free to signup to DocChat today for a video consultation with one of our highly qualified physicians. Thanks for visiting!

Tips For Allergy-Proofing Your Home

The beginning of Spring is a great time to do some allergy-proofing as it can go hand in hand with Spring cleaning. It can also better prepare any hay fever sufferers in your household for the season by providing a safe place for them to catch a break from allergy and asthma triggers.

Allergy-Friendly Bedding

Those with asthma and allergies should use hypoallergenic dust-mite-free bed and pillow covers. You can purchase dust mite sprays for added nightly protection from triggers. You should also wash your sheets at least once a week at a temperature of 130 F (54 C) or hotter. If you have a lot of allergies or moderate asthma refrain from using unbreathable bedding materials, or down feather pillows as there is a higher likelihood that you may be allergic or bothered by down feathers.

Tackle Dust And Dander

Avoid using dry dusters or dry clothes for the task, as they just spread dust around. Use wet clothes or damp dusting tools. Frequent dusting is the best way to keep allergy sufferers safe in the house (this is especially important during pollen season as pollen allergy sufferers may spend copious amounts of time inside). It is best to do the dusting while the sufferer is out of the house or at least in another part of the house so they aren’t affected. They should refrain from entering the freshly dusted rooms for at least a couple hours. If you have pets, keep them out of the bedrooms and other highly occupied rooms so family members who are sensitive to dander can have safe places to spend time in the house.

Prep Your House For Pollen

There are some general precautions you can take to provide a safe haven for yourself or a member of your family who has hay fever or pollen allergies. Invest in a good air conditioning unit so you can keep the windows shut and sealed all season. Avoid hanging clothes out to dry, as they will become covered in pollen. Avoid upholstered furniture, carpet or fluffy mats where allergens such as pollen can be trapped and not as easily wiped away as from hard surfaces. Clean regularly, and implement a no-shoe policy in your home so people won’t trek pollen through the house. The last, and one of the most important precautions you can take to de-pollen your home is to buy a particulate filtration system such as a HEPA filter.

Eradicate mold

Mold can be tricky, and can be a big trigger for asthmatics especially. It is important to routinely wipe down damp areas such as refrigerators or window panes. Humid environments encourage breeding of dust and mold, so the Mayo Clinic suggests, “Maintain temperature between 68 F (20 C) and 72 F (22 C) and keep relative humidity no higher than 50 percent. Clean or replace small-particle filters in central heating and cooling systems and in room air conditioners at least once a month.” Dehumidifiers are also good devices to have around, especially in damp basements that can be mold free-for-alls.

Other tips

It should go without saying that if someone in your family has asthma or an abundance of allergies, you should make sure no one smokes in your home. You can also avoid wood-burning stoves, as those can really aggravate asthma and some allergies. You should also avoid using scented products or scented candles in your home if you have sensitive family members. You may not realize it, but scented products can be having detrimental daily effects on asthmatics or allergy sufferers in your household. There are also several hypoallergenic cleaners and laundry detergents available!

We hope you found a few of our allergy-proofing tips helpful! Thanks for visiting DocChat, we hope you’ll return soon!

Telemedicine for Asthma And Allergy Care

Spring brings plenty of seasonal irritants along with it, so we thought it was an opportune time to examine the benefits of telemedicine as an option for continued allergy and asthma healthcare. Telemedicine can be a beneficial means of care for many other chronic illnesses such as arthritis, skin conditions, diabetes or stroke aftercare, so why not asthma and allergies? Studies already show that telemedicine is making major strides in asthma day-to-day care and maintenance.

Technology Aided Monitoring

Our modern world brandishes advanced technology including sharper images, HD screens and crisp audio. These attributes make it easy to diagnose and monitor chronic conditions such as allergies via telemedicine. If a person suffers from worsening hives, they can send photos of the different stages, as well as show a telemedicine doctor via teleconference the condition of their skin. A telemedicine doctor can also clearly see swelling, rashes and bloodshot or irritated eyes. When it comes to asthmatics, the doctor will be able to hear any wheezing or breathing changes that may be present, making it easy to assess the state of a patient’s condition. He or she will also be able to see potential physical characteristics such as blue/purple lips or nails, or pale skin and under-eye bags which may be indicative of inadequate sleep due to an asthma flare-up.

Get Prescriptions Filled Or Changed

Based on the doctor’s assessment of the progression of the patient’s allergies or asthma, the doctor can alter antihistamine levels or brands, change up puffers, or prescribe corticosteroids if need be. Doctors can send the prescriptions straight to the patient’s pharmacy and arrange for them to be home delivered.

Continued Medical Advice

Sometimes, especially with asthma, patients simply need general advice, or reassurance on the status of their condition. If a patient is having trouble sleeping or feels like they may be breathing extra shallow, a telemedicine consult can help determine whether the patient should be concerned and seek primary or emergency treatment soon, or if they are okay and should just up their puffers and try to relax. This is a helpful resource as the person likely doesn’t want to waste hours in an emergency room or try to get a doctor’s appointment just to be told they simply need to temporarily up their puffers, especially since clinic environments are dangerous for an asthmatic’s weakened immune system. In this way, telemedicine doctors can act as convenience triage for asthmatics.

Convenience During Pollen Season

This method of healthcare can be extremely convenient during hay fever months if the person has a bad allergy to pollen, or if their asthma flares up because of it. Those who are hypersensitive to pollen will want to spend as much time inside as possible so as not to worsen their condition. Being able to check in with a doctor without having to head out into a threatening cloud of pollen and wait in a germy clinic when their resistance is already down would be a big plus for hay fever sufferers or asthmatics during this time of year.

Feel free to call, email or visit DocChat‘s website to set up a video consultation with one of our highly skilled physicians about your allergies or asthma today. Thanks for visiting, hope to see you soon!