Why Does Cold Weather Make My Asthma Worse
When its cold, the air is colder and drier
Breathing in dry, cold air irritates your airways. Your lungs then react to this by becoming tighter and this makes it more difficult to breathe.
Our bodies are designed to respond to changes in air temperature. However, some people are more sensitive to changes in temperature and may have a stronger reaction, which includes asthma symptoms that are set off by cold air. The good news is, your asthma is less likely to be triggered by cold weather if its well controlled.
You can also help yourself by trying to breathe through your nose more, rather than just your mouth. This is because when you breathe through your nose, cold air is warmed up by passing through your nose, throat and then your upper airways. If you just breathe through your mouth, this warming up process doesnt happen, which means the cold air dries out the moisture in your lungs.
Cold air makes you produce more mucus
When its cold, you might produce more mucus than you normally would.
This is because when cold air enters your nose, the vessels in your nasal cavity get bigger and congested, which causes more mucus to be produced. This extra mucus is produced because your body is trying to create perfect conditions, by adding warmth and humidity, while also filtering the air thats going into your body. This extra mucus is why you can get a runny nose in winter.
Cold weather brings colds and flu
Cold weather forces us indoors
What Can You Do To Prevent Asthma Attacks During Winter
There are ways to prevent asthma attacks during winter. You can always stay in the comforts of your home, however, there will always be days wherein you need to go outside. Here are some of the things you can do:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf to warm these areas.
- Drink lots of fluid to keep you hydrated.
- If you plan to exercise outdoors, carry your inhaler with you and use it 15 to 20 minutes before exercising. This is to open up your airways so you can breathe easier.
- Try to avoid anyone who has colds or flu.
Dr. Paul Jantzi, a board-certified allergist and immunologist, provides allergy treatments in Texas with office locations in Bastrop, Brenham, College Station, Columbus, Giddings, and La Grange. You can contact him at any of the Brazos Valley Allergy & Asthma Clinics for professional allergy, asthma, and immunology services at six locations throughout the Brazos Valley. They provide the best care and affordable treatments for patients who have asthma.
Disclaimer: Information on this website is not intended to be used in place of your professional medical advice or treatment. Please consult your doctor or healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.
How Can My Story Help Others
When I provide virtual asthma education to families, I share stories to help them remember things. When we talk about asthma triggers, I share The Yogurt Story. That story helped someone realize they had asthma!
Before COVID, I was helping a family learn more about asthma. An older family member was nearby, but I didnt think they were listening. Later, they became sick and started coughing. That family member told the parent that they thought they had asthma. When the parent questioned them, the family member said they overheard my Yogurt Story. And they realized that every time they ate or drank something cold, they started coughing too.
The parent took this sick family member into the clinic, and they were also diagnosed with asthma. Wow! It did help to share The Yogurt Story.
Do cold weather and/or cold food or drinks affect your asthma too?
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Understanding Cold Weather And Asthma Symptoms
Individuals with asthma have bronchial tubes that are sensitive, triggered by things such as cold air. When the outdoor temperature drops and you inhale cold air, it can irritate the lining of your airways and cause symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
For people with asthma, wintertime can trigger flare-ups more so than other seasons. Cold air can cause symptoms especially when it’s dry and accompanied by windy conditions. Typically, the more severe your asthma, the higher the likelihood that cold air will trigger symptoms for you.
What Are The 4 Categories Of Asthma
Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions in the US. About 1 in 11 adults and 1 in 12 children have asthma. It affects people of every age, race and ethnicity. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing, particularly at night or in early morning. Asthma is chronic inflammatory disease which includes periodic exacerbations. Inflammation is the single most important factor related with the pathophysiology of asthma and results in airways hyperresponsiveness. Asthma may be triggered by certain factors, including respiratory tract infections, exercise, cold air, cigarette smoking, and allergens. The four categories of asthma are acute, exercise-induced, allergic, and intrinsic. Acute asthma is the most common type of asthma, and it is triggered by any factor that causes inflammation in the lung and bronchioles. Exercise-induced asthma refers to asthma triggered by exercise. Allergic asthma is caused by a type of hypersensitivity reaction to certain allergens, and extrinsic asthma is a rare form of asthma, which is triggered by environmental factors like cigarette smoke, cold air, or chemicals..
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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
What Causes Asthma Symptoms To Flare Up
Asthma symptom triggers may not be the same for every person who suffers from the disease, but common triggers include:
- Air pollution
- Stress & Anxiety
Once you recognize the factors that trigger your asthma symptoms, it is important to avoid them whenever possible. If you live in an area that is full of environmental pollutants, you may want to consider the possibility of moving to an area with cleaner air. Additionally, consider getting an air purifier for your home, as they can help cleanse the air of potential environmental triggers associated with asthma.
If you currently smoke, you should do everything you can to stop the habit before it makes your asthma symptoms even worse. If you want to learn how to live a life with less asthma flair-ups, you should do everything you can to avoid your personal triggers and take the necessary medication to manage your symptoms.
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Breathing Through Your Mouth
Breathing is automatic so you will need to pay attention to how you breathe. When you breathe in frosty air through your mouth, it doesnt warm up in your nasal passages which irritate the respiratory system. Its natural and healthier to breathe through your nose because it helps your body effectively use the air being inhaled.
Nose breathing also filters out foreign particles, humidify inhaled air and produces nitric oxide, a vasodilator, which means it helps to widen blood vessels. This helps improve oxygen circulation in your body.
Beware: These Cold Weather Irritants Can Trigger An Asthma Attack
The changing of leaves signals the onset of fall and fall-like weather which indicates colder weather is around the corner. Its not uncommon to feel flu-like symptoms or even develop a cold with this change. Its also not uncommon for asthma suffers to start experiencing difficulties. This dip in temperature generally affects those who are asthmatic more since cold, dry air restricts airways that trigger an asthma attack.
A cold-weather asthma attack happens when your respiratory tract is irritated from colder temperatures. When the airway muscle spasms, it makes asthma symptoms difficult to control.
If youre not careful, youll find yourself needing to wait until springtime before you can enjoy the outdoors again without the anxiety of having an attack.
Approximately 25 million Americans have asthma or 1 in 13, with more adult women reportedly living with asthma than their male counterparts. Those who live with asthma may find themselves much more susceptible to an unprovoked asthma attack if theyre not careful of certain irritants.
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Lab And Imaging Tests
If the symptoms are severe and abnormal breathing sounds are detected, your doctor may order blood tests to investigate whether viral pneumonia, RSV, or influenza is involved.
If a bacterial infection is suspected, a throat swab or sputum culture may be performed.
In emergency situations, pulse oximetry or an arterial blood gas test will be used to see if blood oxygen levels are low. Other pulmonary function tests may be performed to evaluate how well your lungs are functioning during and after an acute attack.
Allergen testing may be useful in diagnosing allergic asthma, but it does not necessarily exclude viral-induced asthma as a cause.
Even if a respiratory virus cannot be identified, the co-occurrence of a respiratory infection with a reduced forced expiratory volume of 20% or more is strongly suggestive of viral-induced asthma, particularly in people with well-controlled disease.
Given that viral-induced asthma is as common as it is, findings like these will often warrant treatment even if the viral culprit is not identified.
Can The Weather Affect My Child’s Asthma
Yes. Weather conditions can bring on asthma symptoms. Some kids’ asthma symptoms get worse at certain times of the year. For others, a severe storm or sudden weather change can trigger a flare-up.
Hot, humid air also can be a problem. In some places, heat and sunlight combine with pollutants to create ground-level ozone. This kind of ozone can be a strong asthma trigger.
Wet weather and windy weather can cause problems too. Wet weather encourages mold growth, and wind can blow mold and pollen through the air.
If you think weather plays a role in your child’s asthma, keep a diary of asthma symptoms and possible triggers and discuss them with your doctor. If pollen, mold, or other allergens make asthma symptoms worse, ask about allergy testing.
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How To Avoid A Cold
Triggers, such as pollen, dust mites, and cold weather, are conditions that cause asthma symptoms to worsen or flare up. Allergy-induced asthma is triggered by airborne substances, such as pollen, mold spores, or particles of skin and dried saliva shed by pets .
If you or someone you know has asthma, it is important to be aware of these causes so you can limit your exposure to them as much as possible. As winter approaches and temperatures begin to fall, the dry, cold air can trigger an asthma attack.
So, what are the causes of cold-induced asthma attacks, and how can you avoid them? Here are three reasons the winter months affect asthma attacks and how you can prepare for them this year:
Cold and/or dry air can narrow your airway, which is referred to as bronchoconstriction, or the constriction of the airways in the lungs. This results in coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Your airway is lined with a layer of protective mucus to remove unhealthy particles. In cold temperatures, your body produces more mucus. The mucus in colder weather is thicker and stickier than normal. Allergic reactions can increase mucus production, which can make you susceptible to respiratory infections and increases your risk for catching a cold.
Exposure to germs
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How Air Conditioners Cause Asthma
Many physicians have come out to warn people against spending long hours in air-conditioned rooms to avoid triggering asthma attacks. As your air conditioner operates, it blows the small particles in the air which you later inhale unknowingly. Continuous running of the HVAC system triggers the growth of mold on surfaces of the home and subsequently leading to allergies, pneumonia and other respiratory infections.
It is worth noting that regular HVAC maintenance is significant. A clean and sufficiently running AC ensure that air being blown is cold and fresh. Humidity control, proper filtration and adequate ventilation all contribute to healthy indoor air quality.
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Tips For When You Dont Have An Inhaler
Mild to moderate asthma attacks can occur at inopportune times. You may be able to manage your asthma more effectively with these tips. If these dont work CALL AN AMBULANCE.
Cold Weather Exercise And Asthma
Exercising outdoors in cold weather may be a problem for people with asthma as both cold air and exercise are known triggers.
When you exercise, you tend to breathe in and out of your mouth instead of your nose. But its your nose that filters the air you breathe in, warming it up and adding moisture to it before it reaches your airways. So air breathed in through your mouth will be colder and drier when it gets to the airways than if it came via your nose.
This can also dry out the moisture layer that lines your airways.
If youre breathing in through your mouth during exercise you may also be taking in pollutants from the environment, such as dust and dirt. These may also irritate your airways and cause asthma symptoms to develop.
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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 Are The 3 Types Of Asthma
Asthma is a chronic, recurring lung disease that can limit the ability to breathe. It can be triggered by allergies and irritants, including pollen, dust, tobacco smoke, and air pollution. In the United States, asthma affects more than 16 million people, or about 6.8% of the population. There are three types of asthma. They are:.
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What Causes Asthma To Develop
Asthma develops when the airways in the lungs are inflamed, swollen, and thickened. When this happens, it causes the airways to constrict and makes it difficult for air to flow in and out of the lungs. Allergens and irritants, like cigarette smoke, pet dander, and pollen, may trigger asthma attacks. Other asthma triggers include colds, exercise, stress, drugs, and air pollution. The symptoms of an asthma attack include wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. These symptoms can cause serious problems if you dont get treatment right away. Treatment for asthma includes taking medicine, avoiding triggers, and finding the best ways to manage symptoms..
How Can People With Asthma Better Manage Their Symptoms
You can’t just avoid the outdoors during colder temperatures , so it’s important to learn how to recognize asthma triggers and manage your symptoms. Dr. Goldstein recommends wearing a scarf over your nose and mouth to reduce the amount of cold air you inhale while you’re outside and working with your doctor to determine a treatment plan that will help control your symptoms, including during your workouts.
Dr. Gupta also suggests checking in with your allergist, who may recommend, among other measures, using an inhaler, “which helps decrease the spasms of the bronchials.” She added that air conditioning can take a similar toll on your lungs, and cold air with pollution can increase respiratory symptoms, so it’s important to always be prepared. Stay proactive by carrying your inhaler, limiting exercise in cooler temperatures if it seems to affect your lungs, and talking to your doctor about your specific concerns. With a few precautions, you’ll be able to navigate whatever the forecast brings.
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