Oklahoma Drivers…Shut ’em Down.

Without a doubt, driving on ice and snow should be reserved for the experienced drivers only.  We don’t need more wrecks on Hwy 169 that what we already have to endure.  But when the forecast for a winter storm brings on a run for bread and milk, we may have gone a bit too far.  We have our own version of Black Friday…it’s called snow storm panic!  Here I was shopping at Target to get a few items I really did need.  Usually, my wait at the pharmacy is very short, but last night I guess EVERYONE thought it was important to get their medications filled before the storm arrived in case medications would no longer be available.  Come on, pharmacies stay open even in Minnesota.  Did you happen to go down the bread aisle?  Nothing left and not a snowflake on the ground.  No wonder you can’t yell fire in a theatre.  The most shocking behavior, however,  found in Oklahoma in preparation for a winter storm is to cancel school before it even starts to snow.  Will you catch us off guard and unprepared?  Not a chance.  No wonder our kids have never seen snow or had a chance to make those lovely snow angels.  They’re never in it.  All joking aside, we did have a pretty nasty snowstorm 2 years ago with almost 20 inches in one night.  That amount of snow shut the city of Tulsa down for a week!  Could it happen again?  Sure could, but the video below is enough for me:

Now, you’re probably wondering if I always pontificate about a totally irrelevant topic such as how Tulsans prepare for snow storms.  Fortunately, this can have some relevance to cold weather illness:

  1. Asthma can be a real problem during the cold weather.  Inhaling cold air causes drying of the airway wall and more severe bronchospasm that moderate temperatures.  Don’t think that coughing and shortness of breath is just cold air; it may be your asthma getting out of control.  Learn how to cover your nose and mouth with a scarf or mask, even if you’re outside for a short period of time.  And most of all, use your regular inhaler (controller) during the winter  months if cold air or upper respiratory infections are triggers for your asthma.
  2. Another problem with the winter season is trying to figure out if I have a cold, flu, sinus, or allergy problems.  Let me make this much easier for you.  Most ragweed is done pollinating by the end of October, so without much pollen in the air, your sneezing and coughing is probably not due to allergy (no exposure). A cold usually lasts < 1 week and any congestion or runny nose that doesn’t resolve from one Saturday to the next is probably a sinus infection.  Why does this matter?  Sinus infections should be treated with the “all or nothing” approach as any infection left in the sinuses will only result in more infection.  Catching the flu makes you feel terrible and you’re already coughing.  What could be worse?  Add a fever with muscle aches and your diagnosis is most likely some type of influenza.  Good motivation to get your flu shot!
  3. Am I Allergic to the Cold?   I’m glad you asked.  Cold-induced hives stays hidden for most of the year and comes out with a vengeance during cold weather.  Some instances can be life-threatening and this condition is nothing to take lightly.  Cold-induced urticaria of course, responds best to a vacation at Key West, but if you don’t have the luxury or flexibility to do that, antihistamines are still the backbone of treatment.  Be careful when shoveling snow as shortness of breath and chest tightness may be associated with hives and a cold-induced reaction.

Although you must be careful with cold weather illness, you have to do something outside or you’ll get cabin fever.  The link below is from AAAAI on how to control your asthma and still participate in winter activities.  It’s a good read in front of the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate.  In the meantime, I’m heading for the slopes!

Asthma and Winter Sports.

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