Asthma is a condition of health that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways. If you or someone else in your family has asthma, you probably know how changing seasons affect your symptoms. Winter is no exception. When the body temperature drops, the symptoms may worsen when the asthma caused by the cold is lower than usual. Symptoms may worsen, breathing may be difficult even when going out or light exercise, and wheezing and coughing may occur.
How are cold and asthma attacks related?
In people with asthma, the airways tend to become inflamed when exposed to certain triggers. When the airways swell, they narrow. It becomes difficult to breathe air properly. That is why people with asthma often face problems during breathing, which is exacerbated during the winter season.According to one study (2014), hospitalizations for medical facilities due to asthma increase diversifiedly in winter.
When exposed to cold weather, cold air is drawn into the airways. You are more likely to have an asthma attack.
Why is cold air annoying for asthma patients?
There are several reasons why cold air is annoying for people with asthma.
Cold air is usually on the dry side!
A layer of fluid covers the air passage. Therefore, when inhaling cold, dry air, the lining tends to volatilize faster than inhaling air at room temperature. The dry air passages become inflamed, prone to inflammation, and exacerbate the symptoms of asthma.
Cold air can cause the production of histamine. It’s a chemical that your body makes in response to allergen attacks. This chemical can cause wheezing and exacerbation of asthma symptoms.
Cool mucus production
A mucous layer that covers the airways to remove allergens and other contaminants from inhaled air. During the winter, your body happens to secrete more mucus than average. You may be more susceptible to colds, coughs and other infections.
The winter season is about respiratory infections.
During the winter, colds, coughs, fever, and other respiratory illnesses are very common. These illnesses can trigger asthma attacks.
You spend more time indoors
The longer you spend indoors in cold weather, the more likely you are to develop allergies caused by indoor allergens such as dirt, dust, pet sebum, and mold. These allergens can also cause asthma symptoms.
Always see a doctor if your asthma symptoms tend to worsen.
What are the other factors that can cause an asthma attack besides the cold?
Apart from cold air, there are many other triggers to trigger an asthma attack. This includes:
- Strong smell and scent
- Smoke, especially cigarette smoke
- Excessive training
- Viral infection
- Bacterial infection
What are the symptoms of a winter-induced asthma attack?
The following are obvious signs of an asthma attack.
- Difficult to speak
- Chest pain
- A feeling of pressure on the chest.
When should I see a doctor?
As soon as you experience any of the above symptoms, follow the instructions in your asthma action plan. If your symptoms are so severe that you cannot breathe or speak well, take first aid and call your doctor immediately.
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How can you manage winter-induced asthma?
Many factors need to be considered when it comes to managing winter-induced asthma, including the environment and heredity. Here’s how to manage and avoid asthma attacks:
Try to avoid organisms and other triggers that cause allergies
Inhaling pollutants or approaching potentially triggering areas can irritate the airways and cause asthma attacks. The best thing to do here is to identify these triggers and avoid them as much as possible.
Install a high quality air filtration system
An efficient air filtration system cleans the air in the house and removes pollutants such as pollen, mold, smoke, dust, dirt, mites and triggers for asthma. According to ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigering, and Air-Conditioning Engineers), an air filtration unit with a particulate filter can purify up to 99.97% of allergens. Therefore, you should consider installing it and work with other systems in your home to enjoy the clean air and keep asthma away.
Get a humidifier
Humidifiers are designed to increase the level of moisture in the air by releasing water vapor. In many asthma patients, increasing the water content in the air can relieve symptoms. However, be careful when using a humidifier. Otherwise, there may be too much water in the air and the symptoms may worsen. According to AAAI (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology), the ideal humidity range should be between 30% and 45%.
There are two categories of asthma treatments. Medications for long-term use and immediate remedies for regular and immediate relief. Asthma medications are available in the following forms:
Other asthma prophylaxis includes:
- Inhaled corticosteroids.. This drug helps block inflammation. Although these are considered the most important drugs for asthma, they have some long-term side effects.
- Leukotriene modifier.. These drugs also prevent inflammation by blocking the production of leukotrienes (inflammatory chemicals).
- Beta agonist or bronchodilator.. It facilitates breathing by relaxing the muscles that control the movement of your airways.
- Get an asthma action plan
According to the American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other prominent asthma experts, it is highly recommended that you work with your healthcare provider to develop an asthma action plan. It helps you manage asthma properly and effectively.
A typical asthma action plan is a document that can provide all the important and relevant information about your condition. It contains information such as the medicines you take daily, the emergency pills you should have, your symptoms, and how you can control them.
It is essential to have a lung function test to understand if your medicine is working properly. For this, you can get a device (handheld) called a peak flow meter. It helps to monitor the amount of air flowing from the lungs. With the help of this device, you can see if there is a narrowing of the airways, even before any signs or symptoms occur. You can make a read and compare peak flows at different time intervals to identify:
- What is the trigger?
- When should I start or stop the drug?
- When should I hurry to the doctor?
If you have asthma, keep your asthma action plan within easy reach and stick to it. Also, the cold is likely to induce asthma, so take the necessary precautions and medications on time.