DURING THE COLDER WINTER MONTHS, MANY PEOPLE FIND THAT THEIR ASTHMA SYMPTOMS FLARE UP AND BECOME MORE SEVERE. THIS WEEK WE’RE DISCUSSING THE EFFECT THAT COLD WEATHER HAS ON ASTHMA AND HOW YOU CAN HELP TO REDUCE YOUR SYMPTOMS AND STAY SAFE THIS WINTER.
WHAT IS COLD-INDUCED ASTHMA?
When the weather turns colder and the temperature dips, it can make those with asthma feel even more breathless than usual. This is especially true if you exercise outdoors, however, “cold-induced” asthma can coincide with many other types of asthma too.
HOW DOES COLD WEATHER AFFECT ASTHMA?
Asthma is an inflammatory condition that affects your airways, causing them to swell and become narrower when exposed to specific triggers.
Cold weather is especially problematic for people with asthma. According to a study conducted by Fudan University in China, hospital admissions associated with asthma increase during the cold winter months. Similarly, Kuopio University Hospital in Finland, found that over 80% of people with asthma experience shortness of breath that is exacerbated when exercising in cold weather.
Here are several reasons why cold air can increase asthma symptoms.
COLD AND FLU SEASON
The winter months tend to be the time of year that colds, flu, and many other respiratory infections circulate. These infections can exacerbate asthma symptoms significantly, so it’s essential to take precautions, such as having your flu shot. The cold weather can also cause people to spend a lot more time indoors where asthma triggers such as dust, mold, and animal dander are found.
COLD AIR DRIES THE AIRWAYS
When you breathe in cold, dry air, the thin layer of fluid that lines your airways evaporates faster than it can be replaced. This leads to irritated and swollen airways, and a worsening in asthma symptoms. In addition, cold air encourages the production of histamine, which plays a role in immune response and inflammation.
COLD AIR INCREASES MUCUS PRODUCTION
During cold weather, your body produces thicker and stickier mucus than normal. This increase in mucus can make it more likely for you to catch a cold or respiratory infection.
How Can I Beat The Cold Air?
The best way to beat the cold air and reduce your asthma symptoms is to get your asthma under control. Unmanaged asthma is the leading cause of asthma attacks and hospitalizations, so it’s crucial that you develop a comprehensive treatment plan alongside your doctor. If your asthma symptoms are worsening, you may need a change in your medication, treatment schedule, or drug delivery method.
You can also consider simple fixes, such as loosely wrapping a warm scarf around your mouth when breathing in cold air outdoors, and always having your rescue inhaler available if you need it.
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