Asthma Triggers in Winter
Winter and the cold weather can trigger asthma symptoms, increasing the risk of an attack. Around three-quarters of those with asthma in the UK agree that cold air worsens their symptoms. Staying indoors and sickness can also make it difficult to breathe properly during the winter months.
Read on to find out why your asthma symptoms may intensify during winter and what you can do to ease them.
Causes of Asthma in Winter
People with asthma have sensitive airways, which can become inflamed in response to triggers. This makes it difficult to take in as much air and catch a breath. During the cooler months of the year, the following triggers can cause asthma symptoms:
Cold Air and Damp Weather
Dry, cold air rapidly evaporates the fluid that lines your airways, causing swelling and irritation. When cold air enters the airways, it can also cause spasms, resulting in coughing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. Cold, damp weather also increases the number of mould spores in the air, which is another trigger for causing asthma symptoms.
Cold weather causes your body to produce thicker and stickier mucus, increasing the likelihood of cold or other infection. Sicknesses like cold, flu and other respiratory infections circulate during winter, which can cause asthma symptoms.
Indoor Air Pollutants
Chilly weather may encourage you to stay indoors where it’s warmer. However, this may expose you to indoor air pollutants including dust mites and smoke from the fire. These can both be major triggers for your asthma symptoms.
Tips to Prevent Winter Asthma Attacks
Carry out Daily Management
During the winter months, continue to manage your asthma as advised by your GP. Take medication as instructed, even if your symptoms have improved. You should also have regular check-ups to keep your condition under control.
You can also keep an asthma action plan handy to outline your strategy for long-term management and steps to take in the event of an asthma attack.
Take Suitable Medication
Take your reliever inhaler with you wherever you go in the event of an asthma attack. If either your reliever or preventer inhaler doesn’t provide effective relief, check with your GP that you’re using it correctly.
Long-term medication is essential for managing your asthma, while quick-relief medication should only be taken when needed. Short-term medication includes bronchodilators and anticholinergics. Ensure you only use medication that has been prescribed by your GP or pharmacist.
Adjust Your Exercise Routine
If it’s bitterly cold outside, it’s best to exercise inside at the gym. Use your inhaler around 15 to 30 minutes before exercising to open up your airways.
Prepare for Cooler Weather
If you have severe asthma, it’s important to look out for cold temperature warnings on the weather forecast. When the cold weather sets in, keep warm and dry by wearing gloves, a coat, and have an umbrella handy. Before you leave the house, drape a scarf over your nose and mouth to warm up the air you breathe.
Adapt Your Breathing Pattern
Avoid inhaling cold air through your mouth. Breathing in through your nose warms the air, preventing irritation to your airways. You should also drink more fluids during the winter months to thin the mucus in your lungs.
Reduce Your Risk of Catching a Cold or Flu
Cold and flu viruses aggravate asthma symptoms but can be difficult to avoid in winter. Although your everyday asthma care won’t prevent illness, it will minimise the impact of the symptoms.
A flu vaccination will prevent you from catching three types of flu virus, while a cold is harder to prevent. Wash your hands regularly to clean away any illness-causing germs. Also, avoid touching your eyes or mouth, as these are ways for viruses to enter your system. A balanced diet, regular exercise and plenty of sleep will also help to boost your immune system.
Clean Your Home Regularly
Unfortunately, staying indoors won’t prevent all winter asthma triggers. Various indoor triggers can cause an asthma attack, including central heating and open fires.
Keep your home clean and tidy to help remove dust mites and other allergens. Use antibacterial cleaning wipes to disinfect places that frequently come into contact with hands, including handles and worktops. Avoid using spray cleaners and look out for solid or liquid products that use fewer chemicals.
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