How To Handle Asthma In The Winter
What can you do to ease symptoms if winter weather affects your asthma?
- Limit outdoor exercise. Work out at home or in the gym.
- Wear a scarf and use it to warm the air youre breathing.
- Use humidifiers in your home. Keep them free of mold.
- Wash hands frequently. Washing with soap for 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer while out can keep winter illnesses at bay.
- Be conscious of your hands. Keep them away from your face and eyes to avoid spreading germs.
- Get the flu vaccine in early fall.
- Have an Asthma Action Plan in place. Know what to do in case of a flare-up.
- Limit time with pets if youre allergic to pet dander. Keep your bedroom pet-free.
- If dust mites and mold trigger your symptoms, keep your home cool and dry to inhibit their growth.
- Clean and replace filters in your heating and cooling air ducts. Make sure filters are cleaned at the start of every season. Check periodically to keep indoor air quality optimal.
How To Manage Asthma Symptoms During Winter
Although there is nothing you can do to completely get rid of your asthma symptoms during cold weather, there are plenty of things you can do to minimize your symptoms and make life more enjoyable. Here are a few things you should plan on doing this winter season if you want to avoid being miserable until next spring.
- Exercise indoors instead of outdoors.
- Take your asthma medication 10 15 minutes before you leave the house or exercise.
- Bundle up appropriately for cold weather, even if you are only planning to be outside for a few minutes.
- Try to keep the nasal passages clear with irrigation, saline spray or decongestants.
- Stay indoors on particularly symptomatic days or when the weather is extremely dry and cold.
- Always keep an emergency inhaler with you.
- Wear a scarf over your nose and mouth when you are outdoors.
If you do all of these things, you give yourself a better opportunity at managing your asthma symptoms and enjoying the winter season like you should.
How Can I Prevent Infections That Trigger Asthma
- Good hygiene can decrease viral infections. Prevent the spread of infection by making sure you and your family members wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water.
- Check with your health care provider about receiving a flu shot every year. In addition, discuss the possibility of getting a pneumococcus — or pneumonia — vaccine. Pneumococcus is a common cause of bacterial pneumonia, an illness that can be particularly serious in a person with asthma. Depending on your age and any risk factors you may have, you may need two different types of pneumonia vaccines.
- Sinusitis with asthma can be very serious. Be aware of the symptoms of a sinus infection and report them immediately to your doctor to prevent asthma attacks.
- Keep breathing equipment clean. Do not let others use your asthma medications or asthma treatment, including your asthma inhaler, asthma nebulizer, and nebulizer tubing and mouthpiece.
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What Are The Symptoms Of A Cold
Cold symptoms often begin with throat discomfort or sore throat. That discomfort is followed by clear, watery nasal discharge sneezing fatigue and sometimes a slight fever. Postnasal drip from your nose and sinuses can cause you to have a cough.
For the first few days of a cold, your nose is filled with watery nasal secretions. These secretions may become thicker and darker. Dark mucus does not necessarily mean that you have developed a bacterial infection. However, since a cold may trigger your asthma, be especially watchful for symptoms.
- Chest tightness
How Caffeine Can Affect Asthma
In 2010, I started writing about asthmas history. This was when I was introduced to Dr. Henry Hyde Salter. He was the doctor of Teddy Roosevelt during the 1870s when the former President was a child asthmatic. He wrote a book called, On Asthma. It was the most well-respected book on asthma during the second half of the 19th century. So, whatever Dr. Salter believed about asthma became the gold standard.1
He had many hypotheses about asthma, the most famous of which was that asthma was a nervous disorder. He also believed that asthma was brought on by sleep. He had already heard about caffeine as an asthma remedy from his many asthma patients. He speculated that it worked for asthma because of its stimulant effect. He wrote:1
For, what are the physiological effects of coffee? They consist in the production of a state of mental activity and vivacity, of acuteness of perception and energy of volition, well known to those who have experienced it, and to a certain extent very pleasurable, and which is the very reverse of that abeyance of will and perception which, in drowsiness or sleep, so favors the development of asthma.
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What Else Should I Know About Cold Air And Asthma
Every persons asthma is different. If cold weather triggers your asthma symptoms, you should treat it as you would any other flare-up.
Monitor the weather and try to stay inside on the very coldest days. Wear a scarf or face mask if you must go out. Guard your health so a virus doesnt cause an asthma flare-up. Humidify the air indoors to the level that makes your breathing most comfortable.
Follow your doctors direction for medication use. If you are prescribed an inhaler or other medication to manage your asthma, dont skip using it when youre feeling fine. Always follow the plan you have in place to avoid unnecessary flare-ups.
- Make sure all your prescriptions are current. Refill if needed.
- Your Asthma Action Plan should include how to handle asthma when you have no symptoms, if symptoms begin, and if they become severe. Be prepared for all eventualities.
- Keep a notebook to write down notes whenever symptoms worsen. This could shed light on new or old triggers. Keep track of your medication usage your doctor will appreciate a big-picture view.
How Can You Avoid Asthma Attacks In The Cold
To prevent asthma attacks, try to stay indoors when the temperature dips very low, especially if its below 10°F .
If you do have to go outside, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf to warm the air before you breathe it in.
Here are a few other tips:
- Drink extra fluids in the winter. This can keep the mucus in your lungs thinner and therefore easier for your body to remove.
- Try to avoid anyone who appears to be sick.
- Get your flu vaccine early in the fall.
- Vacuum and dust your home often to remove indoor allergens.
- Wash your sheets and blankets every week in hot water to get rid of dust mites.
Here are some ways to prevent asthma attacks when you exercise outdoors in cold weather:
- Use your inhaler 15 to 30 minutes before you exercise. This opens up your airways so you can breathe easier.
- Carry an inhaler with you in case you have an asthma attack.
- Warm up for at least 10 to 15 minutes before you work out.
- Wear a mask or scarf over your face to warm the air you breathe in.
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Identify And Avoid Your Triggers
Its important to identify possible asthma triggers by making a note of where you are and what youre doing when your symptoms get worse.
Some triggers can be hard to avoid, but it may be possible to avoid some, such as dust mites, pet fur and some medicines.
Youll have regular contact with your doctor or asthma nurse to monitor your condition.
These appointments may involve:
- talking about your symptoms for example, if theyre affecting your normal activities or are getting worse
- a discussion about your medicines including if you think you might be experiencing any side effects and if you need to be reminded how to use your inhaler
- breathing tests
Its also a good chance to ask any questions you have or raise any other issues you want to discuss.
You may be asked to help monitor your condition between appointments. For example, you may be advised to check your peak flow if you think your symptoms may be getting worse.
Your personal action plan should say what to do if your symptoms get gradually or suddenly worse. Contact your doctor or asthma nurse if youre not sure what to do.
Why Does Cold Air Make Asthma Worse
You would think cooler weather would make breathing easier, and it can sometimes, but it also brings its own challenges. “Cold air can trigger asthma,” Ratika Gupta, MD, a New York-based physician who is board-certified in internal medicine and allergy/immunology, and author of What? I Could be Allergic to That?!, told POPSUGAR.
“The nose and mouth warm the air prior to the air reaching the lungs. In the presence of cold air, it’s harder for the body to warm up the air,” Dr. Gupta explained. “Inhalation of cold air can cause injury to the lining of the airways, which expose nerves. These nerves then cause the airways to be overactive,” which may result in spasms.
Working out in the cold can be especially difficult for those with asthma, because “exposure to cold air can also increase the number of inflammatory cells in the airways,” Dr. Gupta said, causing the airways to become more obstructed. “Also, cold air may decrease the activity of the cilia, which are hair-like structures that help clear pollutants.” Pollutants are never good news for the lungs.
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Consider Moving Your Workout Indoors
If you normally exercise outdoors, consider switching your routine. And if you cant resist that jog around the park, head out during the warmest part of the day.
Whats more, If you have exercise-induced asthma, your doctor may prescribe an inhaled bronchodilator that contains , that you will use about 30 minutes before exercising outside, Dr. Berger says. Those symptoms can be even worse when you work out in cold air.
Why Does Cold Weather Make Asthma Worse
There are a few reasons why cold weather may contribute to the worsening of asthma symptoms. When individuals with asthma exercise in cold weather, they are not able to warm their breath effectively before it reaches their lungs. Because the body automatically keeps the interior organs at a warm temperature, it can shock the lungs to rapidly breathe very cold winter air. In response to the cold air, the lungs become inflamed, which can lead to an asthma attack.
In addition to the shock that cold air causes to the lungs, it can also cause airway dryness. Cold winter air is often very dry, which can cause irritation to even healthy lungs. Because asthmatics already have weaker lungs, the dry air affects them even more severely and can result in severe asthma attacks or prolonged, uncomfortable breathing.
Cold weather also brings the flu and sniffles along with it, which can exacerbate asthma symptoms and make the winter months absolutely miserable for those who suffer from asthma. If asthmatic individuals properly prepare for the cold weather, they can more effectively manage their asthma symptoms and improve their quality of life during the cold winter months.
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How To Reduce The Spread Of Covid
What can you do to reduce your chances of getting sick? To stop the spread of coronavirus, wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, wear a face mask, keep a physical distance from other people, limit your trips away from home, and increase air flow in your indoor environment. The good news is these same steps can also reduce the spread of the flu, colds and other types of respiratory illnesses.
If you have asthma, keeping your asthma under control can reduce your chances of having a severe asthma episode or attack if you get sick.
If you do get sick, get plenty of rest, drink water and follow your Asthma Action Plan if you have asthma. Reduce your chance of spreading illness to others by limiting contact, washing your hands often and wearing a face mask or covering.
Always contact your doctor about any severe or concerning symptoms, no matter what. And go to the emergency department or call 911 for emergency signs and symptoms.
How Can You Tell The Difference Between Covid
Cold and flu season is here, and the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still spreading. With every cough or sniffle, you may wonder if its asthma or allergies, the flu, the common cold or even COVID-19. But how can you tell the difference?
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has created a respiratory symptoms chart to help you recognize the difference between these conditions.
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Why Is Cold Weather Hard On People With Asthma
- Wild weather: Winter often brings rain, wind and fluctuations in air pressure, even for those in mild climates. Rainy and windy weather can stir up mold spores and barometric pressure changes can trigger sinusitis. These can also cause asthma flare-ups.
- Illnesses: Colds, flu and viruses are common in winter and can lead to more inflammation of your airways. Such illnesses thicken the mucus in bronchial tubes and make it harder to breathe. This can worsen symptoms or cause asthma flare-ups.
- Time spent indoors: When the weather is cold, you may stay inside longer with the windows closed and the heat on. And you may be exposed to more indoor allergens, irritants and respiratory viruses. For example, you could be at risk for an asthma flare if your symptoms are triggered by dust, mold or pet dander, or cigarette smoke if theres a smoker in the house.
What About Medicines For Blood Pressure
Beta-blockers, used to control blood pressure and heart disease, can make asthma worse. This group of drugs includes propranolol, atenolol and metoprolol. If you have started taking a beta-blocker and your asthma gets worse, tell your doctor.
ACE inhibitors are another type of medicine given to treat blood pressure, heart disease and, sometimes, diabetes. Drugs such as captopril, enalapril and lisinopril are included in this group. These medicines appear to be safe for people who have asthma. However, some people develop a cough when taking ACE inhibitors. If you start coughing while youre taking an ACE inhibitor, remember that the cough might not be caused by your asthma. If the cough is caused by the ACE inhibitor, it will usually go away a week or so after you stop taking the medicine. If you develop other problems that make your asthma worse, call your doctor to see if you should stop taking your ACE inhibitor.
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What To Do If You Have Flu Symptoms
If you have flu symptoms or are exposed to someone with the flu, contact your doctor right away. There are anti-viral treatments for the flu that can lesson symptoms. But you have to take them within two days of getting sick.
Like COVID-19, call your doctor before walking into their office if you have symptoms or have been exposed to the flu.
At the first sign of symptoms, start following the Yellow Zone on your Asthma Action Plan.
Allergy Or Rhinitis Symptoms
Irritants and allergens can cause inflammation in your nose. This is called rhinitis. When your symptoms coincide with a certain season of the year, its commonly called hay fever even though it doesn’t cause a fever and can be triggered by many different allergens.
Common allergens that can cause rhinitis include animal dander, dust mites, mold and pollen.
Allergy symptoms can include:
- Clean your floors weekly with a CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® vacuum.
- Plan indoor activities on days when pollen and mold counts are high.
- Keep your windows closed during high pollen and mold seasons. When entering your home, leave your shoes at the door.
If reducing your exposure to allergens isnt enough, there are several treatments that can help. Treatments can include nasal sprays, antihistamines, decongestants and immunotherapy . See a board-certified allergist for testing. They can recommend a treatment plan to help you get some relief.
Uncontrolled rhinitis can lead to sinusitis, a sinus infection. If you have asthma, rhinitis symptoms can irritate your lungs and cause asthma symptoms. So if you have allergies, its important to get treatment to make sure they are well-controlled.
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Caffeine Is A Mild Bronchodilator
Modern evidence suggests that caffeine, when it is metabolized by the liver, forms low doses of theophylline. This might help explain the benefits of caffeine for asthma.3-5
As a side note here, caffeine is also metabolized into theobromine, a component of cocoa and chocolate. Its also a member of the methylxanthine family. This would explain why chocolate tends to make people happy. It has been shown to be an equal bronchodilator to caffeine, although not quite as strong as theophylline. Theobromine has actually been shown to be a good cough suppressant, too.6
One study showed that 5 mg/kg of caffeine reached a peak bronchodilator effect in 2 hours and lasted for six hours. This means that a 200-pound man like myself would require 450 mg of caffeine.7
To put this into perspective, two tablespoons of Folgers ground coffee contains 60-80 mg of coffee. This makes two 8 ounce cups of coffee.8
So, we would have to consume 5-8 cups of coffee at breakfast time to achieve the desired bronchodilator effect for the first six hours of your day. Then around 2 or 3 p.m., wed have to drink up again.