Managing winter asthma doesn’t sound like a hard task, since we are mainly out of the allergy/pollen season, but it definitely can be with cold temperatures. Frigid temps, with winter sports, being indoors and exposure to respiratory illness are all factors that can flare up an asthmatic episode.
Ever venture outside and feel it is so cold that you can’t breath? The cold, dry air can take your breath away, bringing on a cough, shortness of breath, chest tightness or possibly wheezing for some. The best way to combat this is using your rescue inhaler prior to going outside or using a thin warm cloth or scarf that is moisture wicking to cover your nose and mouth. Both strategies can help prevent an impending asthma attack.
In colder months, we tend to stay indoors to stay warm. For those that have allergies to dust mites, molds and pets, this can cause problems with asthmatics if these allergens are present. Keeping pets well groomed, off furniture or out of bedrooms can help keep the allergens down. Making sure that rugs or carpeting is swept at least twice a week can help keep dander at bay.
Dust mites and mold like to live in warm moist areas of your home. Keep your home cool and dry in the winter. Make sure you have runny exhaust fans in your bathrooms when showering and if you have any leaking pipes to have those fixed before mold can start. Preventative measures, such as dust mite impermeable covers can also be purchased at a low cost to put over pillows and mattresses can help with exposure. Another measure would be washing linens once a week in hot water or drying on high heat can help eliminate dust mite exposure. Heating your home with gas or log fireplaces can also be harmful, due to smoke or fume inhalation, if not vented properly.
Respiratory illnesses can flare up asthmatics without notice. Making sure you keep up to date with flu shots is one step to help. Also trying to stay away from those that have colds or respiratory infections (coughing, sneezing, sinus congestion) can help increase your chance at staying healthy.
Finally, it really comes down to identifying/knowing your triggers and how to navigate through them to keep asthma attacks at bay and well managed. For further information or questions, asking your PCP is a good first step. Coming to the clinic to talk with me is always encouraged as well.
*Information adapted from Parkview wellness site, Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology.
Corrie Oberlin, RN