WINTER WEATHER AND ASTHMA RISK
What is the relationship between winter weather and asthma risk? Asthma is exacerbated in the winter.
Asthma is triggered by allergens, air irritants, exercise, stress, medications and other medical conditions. Cold air can also trigger an asthma attack.
To explain why winter weather can trigger asthma, I will first review what is happening in your bronchial tubes when you have an asthma attack. An asthma trigger causes your airways to swell and become inflamed. The muscles around the airways contract, which produces mucus. This combination of swollen inflamed airways, tightened muscles around airways and mucus creation, make it hard to breathe. The cough that follows is your body’s effort to get more air into your lungs. If your airways becomes too constricted, you will start to wheeze.
Cold constricts many things. It constricts our blood vessels and it constricts our airways. Asthma sufferers are prone to bronchial narrowing and the cold can increase this process. Exercising out in the cold is even more likely to bring on an asthma attack, as exercise itself stresses our airways.
Cold air is also dry. Your lungs are lined with fluid and when you inhale dry cold air, this fluid evaporates faster and your airways become irritated. In the cold, mucus production is increased in your lungs. This mucus will be stickier and thicker than in warmer weather. The combination of these factors set up dangerous conditions in your lungs.
Another way cold weather can influence your asthma is by keeping you inside more. Inside, dust, pet dander and other irritants are dense due to closed windows and forced air vents blowing dust and allergens around.
HOW TO HELP YOURSELF
You can help yourself by coming into the winter in good health. You can meet with your Primary Care Provider (PCP) and develop a care plan. This may include daily medications to help prevent exacerbation of breathing issues. Keep yourself well hydrated in the winter. Wet lungs will produce thinner mucus and be healthier than dry ones. You may consider a flu shot and try staying away from people who are ill. Keep indoor irritants under control as much as you can. Something people often omit in the winter time is being sure you are washing your bedding more often. Wash your linens in HOT water to reduce dust mites and wash them weekly, if you can.
During this global pandemic, those of us with asthma are at greater risk. COVID is a respiratory illness. This winter, diligence is even more important than in other years. Winter will increase asthma risk in many ways, but you can help control the effects.
I hope this information helps you to reduce winter weather asthma attacks. Remember this information is shared to be helpful, not to replace the guidance of your PCP. Please reach out to them for guidance.
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