Does it seem like your asthma gets worse as the weather gets cold? You are not alone. The cold air and freezing temperatures can bring on asthma symptoms like wheezing and coughing. If the symptoms are not controlled, you may find yourself with a full-blown asthma attack.
So what can you do to protect yourself? There are a few things you can do, but first we will take a look at why cold weather makes asthma worse. Next, we will go into precautions you should take. Lastly, we will cover how to treat your winter asthma.
Make sure to talk to your doctor if your asthma is getting worse. Furthermore, make sure you have the right nebulizer, medication, and doses to properly control your asthma.
Why Does Cold Weather Make Asthma Worse?
A study from 2014 showed that people with asthma tend to be hospitalized more during the winter months. But why is that?
Your airways tend to swell up and become inflamed when you have asthma. When your airways swell, they get narrow, and air cannot move as freely. This is why people with asthma cough, wheeze, and have trouble catching their breath. The cold weather can bring on inflammation and swelling more than warmer weather.
When you work out or shovel the driveway, your breathing increases and you need more oxygen. Typically, when you breathe normally through your nose, the blood vessels warm and humidify the air before it gets into the lungs. However, when you are trying to get more air in, you breathe through your mouth to try and take more into your lungs.
If you are breathing only through your mouth, that air does not get humidified. The air moves from your mouth to lungs. Once the cold, dry air reaches your lungs and increases your chances of having an asthma attack.
Staying indoors during the cold months is another reason your asthma may seem worse. When you are cooped up inside you are exposed to pet dander, mold, and dust. These are common triggers for asthma symptoms and asthma attacks.
The cold air increases mucus. Your airways also have a protective layer of mucous in them, which removes unhealthy particles you inhale throughout the day. When it is cold out, your body creates more mucus to compensate for the air being so dry. This mucous is stickier and thicker than normal mucous, which makes it easier for you to catch an infection. Furthermore, if too much mucus builds up in your lungs then it is harder to breathe.
The Air is Drier
Since the cold weather is so dry, your airways tend to get swollen and irritated faster. This is because your airways are lined with a layer of fluid, so when you inhale mostly dry, cold air through your mouth, the layer of fluid dries up. This makes asthma symptoms worse.
Sickness is More Common
If you feel like you are sick more often during the cooler months, you are right. Respiratory infections, the flu, and colds are circulating more in the cooler months. These infections can flare up your asthma and trigger an asthma attack.
Precautions You Should Take
Now that you understand why your asthma is worse during the cooler months, let’s talk about what you can do about it. First, talk to your doctor to create an asthma action plan.
Next, ask your doctor important questions, such as do you need short-term medication or long-term ones as well? Do you need a portable mesh nebulizer? When do you call the doctor and when do you go to the emergency room?
Having an action plan in place will put your mind at ease and help you know what to do in case of an emergency.
Other precautions you should take include:
- Get a flu shot
- Stay away from sick people
- Wash your hands often
- Cover your face
- Exercise indoors
Drink lots of fluids in the winter. More fluids in your body keeps the mucus in your body thinner. The thinner mucus in your lungs will be easier to cough up than the thicker, sticky mucous. Try drinking the recommended 15.5 cups of water for men or 11.5 cups of water for women. The amounts may change depending on how much you exercise, if you live in a hot climate, if you have a fever, or if you are pregnant.
How to Treat Winter Asthma
Some people need quick-relief medication in case of an emergency, where others need medication every day through a nebulizer for long-term control. Sometimes, people are known to stop taking their medications when they stop having symptoms. Don’t do this. If you feel like you want to stop a medication, or your symptoms are going away, talk to your doctor first.
If your asthma does flare-up, focus on breathing through your nose. This will help humidify the air that is going into your lungs.
Remember to bring your inhaler or portable mesh nebulizer with you wherever you go. You may not carry it as much in other seasons but put it in place that you will see it before you walk out the door. If you are unsure your inhaler is working, talk to your doctor.
If you are in the middle of an asthma attack, take two puffs of your rescue inhaler. This should help open the airways in your lungs to help you breathe easier. If you do not have a rescue inhaler, use a nebulizer.
If the symptoms are not getting better, but are not getting worse, wait for 10 to 15 minutes then take another dose. Call your doctor if you feel like you need to take more of your rescue inhaler.
Cold Weather and Asthma
The cold weather can flare-up your asthma, so it is important to keep your portable mesh nebulizer nearby and have an action plan for when an asthma attack does occur.