When Asthma Is Worse In Winter: Tips For Cold Weather Survival

Posted on

Many asthma suffers dread the onset of colder weather because something about the cold dryness of winter leads to more frequent attacks and more lung problems. If you struggle with asthma, there are some things you can do to make the winter months more bearable.

Why does cold weather worsen or even induce asthma symptoms?

When a person suffers from asthma, their airways are already more constricted than usual. The alveoli in the lungs also produce more mucus. The narrow pathways and the extra obstruction in the lungs leads to the symptoms of coughing, wheezing, and chest pain. Cold air makes the existing conditions of asthma even more pronounced because cold air naturally causes bronchoconstriction -- cold weather further narrows the air passages in the lungs. For those with normal lung conditions, this narrowing may cause some discomfort, but for those already predisposed to asthmatic conditions, it can be even more dangerous. 

What can you do to help reduce the effect of cold weather on your lungs?

There are a few prevention practices and home remedies that can make a difference. Here are some things to try if the winter is trigger asthma symptoms:

  1. Get your pets out of the bedroom. Many asthma sufferers have trouble with pet hair and dander. Even if your cat or dog is not normally a trigger for you, they can provide extra irritation during the winter that makes cold weather attacks more frequent. To stay on the safe side, keep your pets out of your room when you sleep -- exposure to triggers during sleep can significantly increase the severity of your symptoms.
  2. Keep your home free of dust. Again, dust is a common trigger for asthma. In the summer, without the cold weather making things worse, it could just be an minor irritant. But with the combination of cold and dust, you'll experience more frequent symptoms. Invest in an air purifier with a HEPA filter, and wipe down counters and shelves with a damp rag to prevent dust particles and mites from becoming airborne. You can also cover your bed with an extra sheet to prevent reactions to dust mites that reside on the mattress surface.
  3. Get your flu shot. Getting sick with cold-weather induced asthma is a real concern. Do everything you can to prevent yourself from catching the flu, including getting your yearly vaccine. Wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of the common cold. 
  4. Use a warm mist humidifier at night. Humidifiers can really help ease the brittle dryness that comes from winter air. Generally, air with some moisture will help to ease breathing problems. Sometimes, the excess mucus in the lung can harden in dry conditions, so breathing the moist air helps to bring relief. It can also help you sleep better, as pain from asthma symptoms can be reduced with a healthy level of moisture in the air. 

It's also important to realize that exercise, which exacerbates asthma even in warm weather, is especially damaging during cold weather. If you do like to exercise, choose to do so indoors, and keep your heart rate and breathing at a moderate pace. Try not to run or hike outside. You can also help reduce the shock of cold air to the lungs by breathing your nose when you are outside, as the nasal passage helps to warm the air before it reaches the lungs. Covering your mouth and nose with a muffler or scarf can also be an effective shield against bitterly chilly air. 

For more information on treating asthma, no matter what your triggers are, consult and asthma an allergist in your area.