For people with asthma, the winter months can bring on extra challenges. Though every season has potential triggers for asthma flares, the winter season can be an especially tricky time for asthmatics to navigate. Here are some reasons why and how to prevent them:
- Cold Weather – The cold, dry air of winter can cause bronchoconstriction, or a narrowing of the airways, in the lungs of someone with asthma. This brings on symptoms of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. This is especially true when exercising outdoors, because we take in larger amounts of air. But it can happen even while just walking around outside in the cold. If exercising indoors is not an option during the winter, take extra precautions before exercising outside. These include warming up for 10-15 minutes prior to exercise, using 2 puffs of your albuterol inhaler 10-20 minutes prior to exercising to open your airways, carrying the albuterol inhaler with you while outside, and wearing a scarf around your face to warm and humidify the air you are breathing in.
- Cold & Flu Viruses – Wintertime finds many respiratory infections circulating around. These can be a significant asthma trigger. If you haven’t already had your flu shot this season, get it now! It’s not too late. The CDC recommends that people get their flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible, but states that getting vaccinated later is still beneficial through the flu season and should be offered through January and even later. Try to avoid anyone who is sick and always practice good handwashing measures. Of course, if you do get a cold, talking with your doctor about how to prevent a subsequent asthma flare is always a good idea!
- Indoor Triggers – The cold weather outside during winter isn’t the only place where potential asthma triggers lurk. When heaters and humidifiers are used, indoor allergens can be increased, namely dust mites and molds. Another irritant trigger is the smoke from using fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. Minimizing the use of these, as well as making sure they are used in a well-ventilated area may help avoid an asthma flare. Keeping indoor humidity to less than 50% helps reduce the amount of dust mites in your home.
As always at Allergy & Clinical Immunology, our goal for our patients with asthma is for you to be able to do all your daily and favorite activities, even during the winter, without asthma symptoms interfering. This starts with an individualized treatment plan designed to get your asthma under control and keep it under control. Talk with your doctor to discuss your plan and potential triggers so that your asthma can stay well-controlled through the winter.