Dealing With Asthma in Winter
As the weather changes and the temperature drops many people find that that their asthma symptoms become worse. People who suffer very mild symptoms in the warmer months or who usually have well controlled symptoms may notice an exacerbation of their asthma as winter sets in.
There are various reasons why people notice an exacerbation in winter.
Why does the cold and winter affect asthma?
Cold air is typically dry which irritates the airways and can make it more difficult to breathe.
Breathing in cold air can also trigger the body to create more mucus and inflame the airways, causing an exacerbation of symptoms including coughing, tight chest and wheezing.
People are more likely to be suffering with colds and flu during the winter months. These illnesses can lead to inflammation of the airways and an increase in mucus. Again this can lead to a worsening of symptoms and lead to flare-ups.
Chest infections are also common in winter. Those with asthma may be at more risk of developing a chest infection. This too can lead to an exacerbation of asthma symptoms.
When the weather is cold people tend to spend more time indoors. The areas are less ventilated than in the warmer months with windows and doors kept closed. People are more likely to have the central heating on and may even have open fires in some rooms. This can cause an increase in indoor triggers such as dust mites, smoke, mould and pet fur.
How to protect yourself from an exacerbation of symptoms
If you know that your asthma is worse in winter then there are a few things you can do in advance and during the winter to help;
Discuss an asthma action plan with your GP or asthma nurse in advance. This should include considering any known triggers (such as indoor triggers like pet fur) and how to reduce exposure to these triggers.
Consider having a flu vaccine to protect you from getting flu in the winter.
Always wrap up warm when you go out and breathe through a loose scarf if possible. Breathing in the cold dry air can trigger an exacerbation. Breathing through the scarf will warm the air that you are breathing – the same can be said for breathing through your nose rather than your mouth.
Take your reliever inhaler with you when you are out so you have it to hand should you need it. Although do remember, if you are needing your reliever inhaler more than 3 times each week you may need to see your GP or asthma nurse to check your asthma management plan and medication.
Read more on our occupational asthma page