Unless you are Frosty the Snowman, cold winter air that bites your face when you step outside is one of the most unpleasant aspects of winter. For people with asthma, cold weather can be especially uncomfortable, even dangerous.
According to an article on Healthline, when you have asthma, your airways swell up and become narrow in response to certain triggers. Cold air is one of those triggers that make it hard for people with asthma to catch their breath.
Experts at the Cleveland Clinic say winter germs are another reason asthma can be worse in the winter. “A cold or respiratory tract infection can exacerbate asthma symptoms.”
While most of us cannot avoid winter altogether, medical experts list the following tips as ways to keep asthma in check during cold weather months.
- Get your flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that most people age 6 months and older get a flu shot every year to protect against the flu virus.
- Drink more water and use a humidifier. This will help keep the mucus in your lungs thinner and easier for your body to remove.
- Avoid germs. Avoid spending time with people who are sick or in places that germs spread quickly like daycares, schools, hotels, etc.
- Exercise indoors. Exercising in cold air is even more challenging for your lungs. Stick to the treadmill during the winter.
- Wash your hands. Washing your hands is still one of the best ways to avoid the spread of germs. Be sure to wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Breathe through your nose or wear a scarf. Breathing through your nose when out in the cold warms up the air before it reaches your lungs. Wearing a scarf over your nose and mouth is another way to warm and humidify the air.
- Create a winter healthcare plan with your doctor. This plan will include steps to take when you experience a flare in symptoms or an asthma attack. The plan might also include prevention measures like taking a preventative dose of your asthma medicine before heading out into the cold.
Winter can be hard for asthma patients, but following the strategies listed above should help get you through the season without worsening your symptoms.
NOTE: If your symptoms are so severe you cannot speak, take your quick-acting asthma medicine and seek immediate medical attention.