If you’re like many people, you may find that your asthma symptoms are worse in the winter. Cold, dry air outdoors can irritate your respiratory passages, and even indoors, tons of factors could cause your asthma to flare up.
So why does winter asthma occur, and what can you do to prevent it?
Why does winter make my asthma worse?
Asthma frequency and severity can vary with the seasons, and winter is no exception. Reasons why the colder months can trigger asthma flare-ups include:
- Cold air: Cold air can irritate your airways, causing them to narrow or produce more mucus. Winter air tends to be dryer, as well, which adds to the problem.
- Central heating: Different types of heaters, from wood to gas, often release particles into the air that can trigger asthma. Some heaters also cause water condensation inside the house, inviting mold to form.
- Mold: When moisture pools inside the house, it can create mildew or mold in vents, over walls, and near bathrooms. Mold spores are potent asthma triggers.
- Indoor allergens: Dust mites and animal dander tend to collect more in the house when there is less ventilation. And since people are usually spending more time indoors, they are more likely to be affected by these allergens.
- Flu season: Cold and flu viruses occur more often in cold weather. These infections can aggravate the airways and result in an increased frequency of asthma attacks.
How to prevent winter asthma flare-ups
You can prevent winter asthma flare-ups by identifying your triggers and addressing them:
- Inhalers: Your doctor may prescribe beclometasone inhalers to lower airway swelling and sensitivity. Regular or daily use can reduce the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms. As many as 90% of people use their inhalers incorrectly, which means the medicine is not getting into their lungs the right way. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to check how you’re using your inhaler and correct your technique if necessary.
- Flu vaccine: In addition to treating minor colds and coughs right away with antihistamines, steam inhalation, and nasal drops, consider getting the flu shot. The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from getting sick, especially if you have lung conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Ideally, you should get vaccinated around mid-April so that your body has enough time to build up immunity by the peak flu period from June to September.
- Indoor air quality: Have your flue and chimney professionally checked and cleaned before winter. Clean the dust and soot that accumulates in the chimneys. Burn only dry, unseasoned, untreated wood. Do not overload your wood heater. Never leave your fire to smolder overnight.
- Dehumidifiers: Invest in a dehumidifier to maintain indoor air humidity between 30%-50%. If you find mold growing inside the house, treat it with hydrogen peroxide or bleach. Consider replacing carpets because they tend to grow mold more easily. Repair leaks in faucets and roofs as soon as possible. Use exhaust fans to keep your bathrooms and kitchen well ventilated.
When it comes to overcoming winter asthma, it’s important to plan ahead well before winter arrives. Talk with your doctor to develop an action plan, and make sure to stay on top of your prescribed medications.
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