Asthma and Cold Weather: How to Breathe Easier

Quincy AdamAsthma Learn

Asthma Winter Face Scarf
If the arrival of crisp air, pumpkin-flavored everything and ski season seem to be paired with wheezing every year, you’re probably not imagining things.

Cooler weather can aggravate asthma and make it more difficult for you to enjoy the season. Cold-induced asthma isn’t something that can be cured, but you can avoid the major symptoms by taking a couple of steps to protect your lungs from the colder temperatures. These simple tips may have you breathing more easily so you can enjoy a little cold weather fun.

Cold Air and Constricted Airways

Cold air has a tendency to make lung tissue tight, creating wheezing as you try to force more air into your lungs through constricted airways. Everyone has a different trigger point. For instance, you might be all right as long as the temperature is above freezing…meanwhile, your friend starts having asthma attacks if it’s even a bit chilly out. Yet another person might not have a problem until he or she starts exercising in the cold. Know your personal trigger point!

Conquering Cold Weather

If you live in an area prone to drastic temperature drops when cold fronts come through, try to stay inside when it’s frigid out. But don’t fret. The pairing of asthma and cold weather does not mean that you can’t enjoy yourself. Simple preparations will make the colder months seem like a breath of fresh air.

Keeping your breath warm is the best protection against cold weather. When you go out, grab a scarf and wrap it loosely around your neck and the lower half of your face. You want the scarf to protect your mouth and nose but not be so tight that you have difficulty breathing because it’s in the way. Ensure that when you breathe, you can feel your warm breath gathering in front of your face.

Carry a few extra scarves in your car, or keep them in your desk at work, so that you’ll never have to expose your respiratory system to raw frigid air. And, if scarves don’t work for you, look for special heat-regulating face masks that you often see on the ski slopes.

If your asthma acts up during cold weather exercise—even when you’re wearing a scarf or mask—take a couple of puffs of your inhaler fifteen minutes before you get going. Such simple measures may make all the difference in the world.

Be Alert to Other Asthma Triggers

If you notice your asthma becoming worse in the fall—even when it’s relatively mild out—see your doctor about low-grade flu and colds. It could be that your problem is not necessarily the dip in the temperature, but rather minor viruses that can aggravate asthma. It may sound like basic advice, but avoid anyone that you know is sick as much as possible; asthma and cold weather symptoms are only going to be aggravated if you catch a bug as well.

Treating Asthma in the Winter

Instant-relief medicine is usually not the answer. And those who take daily medicines often stop once the symptoms disappear. As the winter gets closer, be sure to have any asthma prescriptions from your doctor filled and ready to go.

It’s wise to have a three-step plan:

Step 1:

Be prepared for an asthma attack even when there aren’t any symptoms. Always have your rescue inhaler with you, become familiar with the medication dosage you should take, and ensure easy access to emergency phone numbers.

Step 2:

Know how to handle symptoms if/when they occur.

Step 3:

If asthma symptoms become severe and are uncontrollable with inhalers, treat it seriously. Call for emergency care immediately.

If your asthma flares up in cold weather, these simple steps may go a long way in ensuring your quality of life.