Thunderstorms And Extreme Weather Can Be A Threat To Asthma Control
In hot summer conditions, extreme weather such as thunderstorms become more prevalent. Experts arent entirely sure why but have identified that such weather conditions can trigger asthma attacks, sometimes severe.
It may be the airflow patterns during thunderstorms that cause this effect, rather than electrical activity such as thunder and lightning. It seems likely that these airflow patterns could result in more concentrated levels of pollen and mold, which could be one explanation for the increase in asthma attacks during thunderstorms.
Regardless of the reason, extreme weather definitely has had an impact on some of us asthmatics.
How Cold Air Affects Asthma
The lungs in a person with asthma are much more sensitive than those in a person who does not have the respiratory condition. Cold air in the lungs of an asthmatic causes whats called a bronchospasm, which is inflammation of the lungs. Muscles around the bronchial tubes becomes contracted and narrow, leading to greater difficulty in breathing. An increase in mucus also contributes to wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest.
If a person with asthma has it under control, then they can limit the amount of winter-time asthma attacks they experience. But for a person who does not have their asthma well managed, winter can be a nightmare full of scary situations every time they step outside their front door.
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.
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Tips For Maintaining Asthma Control During The Hot Summer Months
Planning ahead is the key to maintaining asthma control in the fact of hot, humid or hot, dry weather. Here are a few tips that can make a difference:
- Stay as much as you can, where environmental conditions are more steady, especially if you have air conditioning. Try to limit outdoor times to early morning or after sunset, when temperatures are often more moderate.
- Watch the pollen and mold levels by checking local weather forecasts or using websites such as pollen.com. Stay indoors as much as you can when levels are high.
- Take your asthma and allergy medication as prescribed, including keeping your quick-relief inhaler on hand at all times.
- Drink plenty of cool water to keep yourself .
- Keep your Asthma Action Plan updated so you can respond to any slip in asthma control promptly.
With a little care and planning, you can prevent heat from becoming a significant factor when managing your asthma.
Cold Air As A Trigger
We know winter can be challenging for people with asthma. Its another burden to manage. But there are steps you can take to breathe better this winter.
Why can cold air trigger asthma?
People with asthma have airways that are more sensitive, and prone to inflammation. Cold air can lead to dryness in the airways, the tightening of the muscles around the airways and impair the normal function of the airways to clear inhaled substances. All of this can lead to an increase in asthma symptoms.
In Australia, we are generally used to breathing warm, humid air which is what our lungs need to stay vital and healthy and clear debris that we breathe in.
Cold and dry air conditions make it harder for our lungs to do the things it needs to in order to make our breathing easy and keep us healthy.
Impact of cold air on asthma
For people with asthma, cold air and the winter season can be a source of worry and stress, not knowing how and if they may be able to breathe properly over winter.
Exposure to cold air can bring on asthma symptoms. This can be problematic for people with asthma and interfere with their quality of life, interrupting planned activities over the winter.
How to minimise the impact
Take your preventer
Wear a scarf
Plan your exercise
Practice safe hygiene
Follow the steps to help reduce the spread of viruses and germs by maintaining your distance from others, washing your hands regularly, and not sharing cups or food.
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Why Humidity And Cold Air Trigger Asthma
Every asthmatic should be aware that both humidity and cold air are two very common asthma triggers. So why is this? What can you do about it?
Its been common wisdom for years that a cool mist humidifier helps with croup, inflammation and narrowing of a childs airways. Put a croupy kid in the hot and steamy bathroom and the swelling gets better.
Another method that often works for croup is taking the child outside in the cold winter air. This is why many times when a parent decides to take the child to the hospital, in the dead of winter, the child is fine by the time they arrive in the emergency room.
This is true for croup, so it was also theorized in past decades that it must also be true for asthma attacks. Most doctors are aware of this fallacy. In fact, doctors recognize that both cold air and humidity can actually trigger an asthma attack.
When I was little boy way back in the 1970s, my pediatrician recommended my parents have me sit in the hot steamy bathroom when I was having trouble breathing. It was also recommended I have a humidifier in my room.
Both of these made my asthma worse, not better. Yet I was a kid, so how was I to tell my parents that? My doctor and parents thought they were doing something good, yet their wisdom was flawed .
I wrote a post before how low and high humidity can trigger asthma. Studies show that a humidity of 50 percent or greater may lead to a greater incidence of asthma trouble.
Two common theories for this are:
Stick To Indoor Physical Activities
Exercise and cold weather make a poor combination for people with asthma. This combination of cold, dry air and an increased lung workload during exercise can cause problems. When you exercise, you need more oxygen, and your breathing increases. The increase in cold air reaching the lungs can cause shortness of breath.
For people without asthma, hiking, cycling or otherwise engaging in physical activity outside isnt much of a problem. However, its best to stick to indoor exercise to avoid triggering asthma symptoms if you have the condition.
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Cold Weather And The Impact It Can Have On Your Asthma
Can cold weather trigger asthma?
For some people with asthma, the cold and dry autumn and winter air can induce asthma symptoms and trigger asthma flare-ups.
We know children and adults are more likely overall to be hospitalised for their asthma as the temperatures drop, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Researchers believe this is due to a range of factors including the cold and the low level of moisture in the air. The cold weather is also accompanied by the other potential triggers during winter, such as cold and flu, viruses, dust, mould and worsening air quality due to wood fire smoke heaters and open fires.
Why does cold weather act as an asthma trigger for some people?
The airways of people with asthma can become inflamed and make it more difficult to breathe.
This is especially noticeable when exercising in the cold or simply inhaling cold air.
Researchers believe this is due to the dual impact of the cold and dry air on the airways, plus people breathing in more through their mouth, instead of through their noses.
This is important because breathing through the nose can warm, filter and humidify the air before it gets to the airways in the lungs.
But when people breathe through their mouths, it goes straight to the lungs and is unfiltered, colder and drier.
Asthma Australia Senior Educator Gemma Crawley says breathing in cold, dry and potentially unfiltered air can dry out the airways, increasing irritation and sensitivity.
Exercise Can Trigger Asthma
Rapidly breathing in air dries inspired air as it moves through the upper airways, which ultimately dries the airway, which then releases histamine that can increase inflammation of the air passages in your lungs. This then leads to bronchospasm. The fact runners tend to breathe through their mouths only exacerbates this problem because the nose is a better humidifier than the mouth.
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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.
Warm Up Before Heading Out
Along with wearing multiple layers to keep your chest and neck area warm, if you take your workouts outside, do a little warm-up inside, so that your body temperature rises before heading outdoors . Follow this approach for things beyond jogging or biking in the cold weathereven shoveling snow from your driveway can trigger flares if your body isnt warm. Try things like walking in place or dancing to some of your favorite tracks to help your lungs function a bit better in the cold weather.
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Can The Weather Affect My Childs Asthma
Yes. Weather conditions can bring on 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.
Cold, dry air is a common asthma and can cause bad flare-ups. Thats especially true for people who play winter sports and have exercise-induced asthma.
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 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 childs asthma, keep a of asthma symptoms and possible triggers and discuss them with your doctor. If pollen, mold, or other make asthma symptoms worse, ask about allergy testing.
In Summary How Do I Handle Extreme Temperatures
The right balance in core body temperature of between 36 oC and 38 oC is essential for helping to balance the lung functionality. Once the temperature drops below or above these core temperatures, then it may result in coughing as the body tries to remove the irritants which are causing the airway walls to become dried out and agitated. Sadly, this is either the hot dry air, or the cold dry air which we are breathing, and it may result in consistent coughing.
The best way to handle this to breath through the nose and/or have a barrier like a clothing which can help hydrate and heat or cool the air before it enters the lungs.
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Triggers For Winter Asthma
A trigger is something that causes you to have an asthma attack. This can vary from person-to-person, but common triggers include pets and pet dander, dust and mold and cold, dry air. When a person with asthma encounters a trigger it becomes more difficult for them to breathe and can lead to coughing, wheezing, and difficulty catching your breath.
In the winter time, cold air can be a trigger for asthma. Not only does cold air trigger asthma symptoms, but it is also related to many upper respiratory infections that can be far worse in individuals with asthma.
The many ways in which cold air affects our breathing include:
- Cold air reduces the effectiveness of the mucus transport whose responsibility is to trap particles and organisms so they do not enter the lungs. Cold air causes mucus to become thicker, making it harder to remove dangerous particles.
- Cold air affects the nose by once again causing mucus to become thicker, making it difficult to breath and leading to nasal congestion and stuffiness.
- When cold air enters the lungs they release histamines, which leads to wheezing this is worse in asthma sufferers.
Can Cold Air Cause An Asthma Attack
If your asthma is severe and cold air is a trigger, then you are at risk for an asthma attack in cold weather. Consult your Asthma Action Plan to manage asthma in cold weather. You should always seek medical attention if symptoms worsen.
To keep cold air from causing an asthma flare:
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What About Winter Sports
Participating in winter sports can also be very challenging with asthma. When someone exercises they tend to breathe more deeply through their mouth instead of their nose. When your child breathes through their nose, the air gets warmed and moistened by their airways before reaching the lungs. Instead, when they breathe through their mouth, the air remains cold and dry, which can act as an asthma trigger.
What Are Some Tips On Preventing Asthma Attacks Triggered By Cold Weather
If you have asthma, you already know prevention is your best strategy. Go back to the basics:
Drink a lot of water, broth-based soups and decaffeinated tea to keep yourself hydrated.
Wash your hands often in soap and water to prevent respiratory illnesses such as the cold and flu.
Dress warmly when you go out. Keep a scarf, gloves and extra jacket in your car just in case.
Breathe through your nose when youre outside. Your nasal passages warm the air before it moves into your lungs.
Get the flu vaccine, which will lower your risk of getting this years flu.
Carry your inhaler with you all the time.
Find alternative ways to exercise if you usually exercise outdoors. Make sure the place where you exercise has good air circulation.
If you have an indoor fireplace, try to keep it empty when not in use. Avoid outdoor firepits, or sit at a comfortable distance.
Use a humidifier indoors, especially at night when you sleep.
Keep up with your daily asthma medications and refilling them, and do not skip doses.
If you know youre prone to winter month attacks, make a plan with your doctor.
If you do have an asthma attack, follow your asthma action care plan you and your provider discussed to get your symptoms under control.
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Why Does Cold Air Trigger Asthma
Cold air holds less water than warm air. So, cold air tends to be drier than warm air. 2 So, not only can it cool airways, but it can also dry them. Its this combination of cooling and drying of airways that is suspected of triggering asthma symptoms.
Our normal body temperature is 98.7Â°F. Airway cells, like all cells, contain a certain amount of fluid. This is needed so they can do their work. 3 Cells lining airway are also covered by a layer of fluid.4 So, this is the normal state of things inside your airways. Your body is constantly making efforts to maintain this state of normalcy.
Inside your nose are turbinates. These are bony-like protrusions on either side of your nasal passages. These act as natural heaters and humidifiers. They warm and humidify air you inhale to body temperature. So, your nose has a significant job in maintaining normalcy inside your lungs. 5
Its easy for your nose to keep up when inhaled air is warm. But, when the air gets cold, they have a hard time keeping up. Fluid lining airways is absorbed to humidify cold air. Likewise, cells lining airways also have to get involved. They have to give up some of their moisture to humidify this air. They also have to give up some of their heat. So, inhaling cold air both cools and dries airways. 4
This can happen if the air gets cold enough. It can happen in freezing temperatures. Although this effect is exacerbated when youre exercising in colder temperatures.
Avoid Winter Asthma Triggers
Asthma triggers can vary among individuals. The most common include mold, dust, pet dander and others. As you spend more time inside, you have more exposure to these common indoor allergens. The winter can also bring unique triggers, like smoke from a fire or a fresh Christmas tree in the living room.
Here are ways to limit your exposure to these triggers:
- Wash bedding in hot water once a week.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom.
- Have someone else dust and vacuum.
- Use allergen covers on mattresses and pillows.
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