There are, however, many other seasonal asthma triggers that surface throughout the year, including a few that may surprise you. Before you attribute everything to the most common and obvious triggers, here are a few more you should consider:
1. Cold, Windy Weather
Cold air can stress your airways—especially if you’re out running or exerting yourself in frigid weather—and it can trigger an asthma attack. Gusty conditions and thunderstorms can kick mold and dust into the air, also causing problems. Pay attention to the temperature the next time asthma flares up…it could have an impact on you.
2. Seasonal Lung Infections
Respiratory infections, such as the cold and flu, are known triggers of seasonal asthma attacks. They can also induce chronic adult-onset asthma in non-sufferers. Getting a flu shot, washing your hands frequently, and of course a healthy diet, are all great defenses against common sicknesses that can cause asthma attacks.
3. Forced Air Heat
Forced air heating can be hard on your airways, as the air is both dry and may have high dust levels when the furnace and blower are first turned on for the season. Be sure to replace the furnace filter and get your air ducts cleaned out before the temperature drops. To keep the air at an acceptable humidity level (between 40% and 60%), you may want to consider portable humidifiers in the rooms where you spend the most time, or even a whole home humidifier connected directly to your HVAC system. While it does add an expense, for those who have asthma challenges, a change to radiator heat may be a less problematic, alternative solution.
4. More Indoor Time
During the colder months, both you and your pets (if you have them) are more likely to be indoors, leading to a higher exposure to allergy-induced asthma triggers such as household dust and dander. Vacuum and dust frequently.
5. Clothing Changeovers
It may sound strange, but anytime there’s a changeover of clothing, it can mean trouble for asthma sufferers. When opening boxes of clothes that have been in storage, make sure you’re in a well-ventilated room in case dust is kicked up. Also, wash clothes before wearing them, even if you did so before you put them away.
6. Wood-Fire Smoke
Wood-burning fireplaces provide a homey feel, look great and help ward off the winter cold, but the smoke they give off can irritate your lungs. Enclosed wood stoves that keep in the smoke may be the best option. If you’re still irritated by smoke that escapes when adding a log to the fire, consider a smokeless alternative, such as a gas fireplace. It may reduce your chance of an asthma attack, a healthy trade-off for sacrificing a bit of ambiance.
7. Ozone Action Days
Increased ground-level ozone, which typically occurs during bright summer days in urban areas, can aggravate asthma. Depending on the winds, rural areas can also be affected. Pay attention to ozone levels and your sensitivity to them. Avoid the outdoors when there is more ozone than you can tolerate.
8. Rotting Leaves and Mold
Rotting leaves are a source of mold, which those with asthma should avoid at all times. If you need to do yard work around decaying leaves, be sure to wear a mask to reduce the chances of inhaling mold. You should beware of mold in your home. It can appear anytime there are damp, warm conditions, and it isn’t always immediately visible. Mold testing equipment is available at many home supply stores or from trained experts. Also, do your lungs a favor and fix that leaky basement. Sitting water is an invitation to mold-related problems.
9. Seasonal Trees and Wreaths
In fall and winter you’re more likely to welcome trees and wreaths into your home for seasonal decorating, along with associated allergens that may trigger asthma attacks. Make sure you’re not allergic to pine or other popular indoor plants. If you are, artificial trees have come a long way in appearance!
Also keep in mind that another potential source of seasonal asthma problems is all those dusty decorations (in potentially musty boxes) that have been sitting in a basement or attic all year. Open boxes in a ventilated area and wear a mask if you need to do so.
If you are exposed to any of these potential triggers and are experiencing symptoms of asthma, check with your doctor for a diagnosis. Or, if you have been diagnosed with and know any of these to be a root cause of asthma for you, avoidance is key.