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Does Cold Air Aggravate Asthma

How To Reduce The Spread Of Covid

Why Does Cold Weather Worsen Asthma Symptoms?

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.

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, its 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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Is Cold Air Good For Asthma

Cold air is bad for most people with asthma as it tends to irritate the bronchial tubes and trigger asthma symptoms.

If you have asthma, it may be best for you to stay indoors as much as possible during cold winter weather. Be sure to monitor indoor air quality and install HEPA filters in your ventilation systems. Watch for signs of mold and remove it as quickly as possible. Install dust mite-proof pillows and mattress covers in your bedding. Consider buying an air purifier or air cleaner to help remove pet dander and other allergens from your indoor air.

Modern homes have better windows and insulation. They are less drafty and conserve heat better. But that means bedding, furniture, carpets and curtains can hold on to moisture, encouraging dust mites to breed. Keep your home below 50% humidity and use dehumidifiers to help keep dust mites from breeding. When the weather allows, open your windows for one hour per day to reduce humidity in the house.

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How Can Overly Dry Air Affect Your Health

The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you keep the humidity in your home or workspace between 30 and 50 percent. When the air becomes drier than that, it raises the risk of several types of health issues.

Lets take a closer look at some of the ways that overly dry air can affect your health.

Inflammation And Your Lungs


A garden-variety cold is caused by any one of over 200 viral strains, the most common of which are rhinoviruses, followed by coronaviruses, influenza viruses, adenoviruses, and respiratory syncytial virus .

When a respiratory infection occurs, the immune system responds by releasing cytokines that draw defensive white blood cells to the site of the infection.

Many of these cytokinesmost especially interleukin types 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, and 13are responsible for triggering airway hyper-responsiveness and bronchoconstriction in people with asthma. In essence, the inflammation caused by a cold can “spill over” to the lower respiratory tract and instigate an attack.

Research also suggests that antigens on certain respiratory viruses can trigger an allergic response in people with asthma. Antigens are the proteins of the surface of cells that the immune system reacts to. In some cases, the antigen will spur allergic inflammation that only adds to the burden of viral inflammation.

Although viral-induced asthma has long been considered separate from allergic asthma, evidence suggests that viral-induced asthma can affect people with allergic and non-allergic forms of the disease, including exercise-induced asthma and eosinophilic asthma.

This dual source of inflammation may explain why certain people are more prone to viral-induced asthma than others.

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Is Asthma Triggered By Cold Air

When someone with asthma breathes in cold, dry air, it can make the muscles inside start to spasm while also trying to keep airways open. This further irritates the lining of the airways and causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Cold air can trigger asthma symptoms and flare-ups, especially when theres dryness in cold air. For many people with asthma, its the dryness in cold air that can lead to breathing problems. Cold air accompanied by windy conditions can also trigger symptoms. In general, the more severe your asthma is, the more likely cold air is to affect you.

Tips To Make Winter Easier On Your Asthma

Dont let the cold, dry air or a common cold worsen your asthma symptoms. Follow these tips to stay healthy when the temperatures dip.


Unless you love stepping outside to cold, dry air that smacks you in the face, winter can be a dreary season. For people with asthma, the cold weather can worsen their symptoms.

There are two issues with winter for people with asthma, notes Marilyn Li, MD, an allergist and immunologist with the LAC+USC Healthcare Network in Los Angeles. One is that the air is cold and dry, and the other is people have more sinus and upper respiratory infections, either of which can trigger or worsen asthma attacks.

To keep a handle on asthma attacks during the cold-weather months, here are 10 things you can do.

  • Wash your hands. Properly washing your hands with soap and water is one of simplest and best ways to avoid spreading or catching colds and other viruses, Dr. Li advises. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and moist towelettes also do the trick. Also emphasize the importance of good hand washing to your children to even further reduce the chances of spreading germs around your house.
  • Dont sit by the fireplace. While sitting by the fire sounds lovely and cozy, its not so great for your asthma. The more evidence we have, the more we realize that burning wood is like burning tobacco, explains Todd Rambasek, MD, of ENT & Allergy Health Services in Cleveland. Smoke is smoke, and smoke can irritate your lungs, especially when you have asthma.
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    Spending More Time Inside Can Trigger Asthma

    Cold air can trigger an asthma attack, so many people with asthma avoid going outside in the winter. But indoor air isnt necessarily better. Indoor air can be filled with dust, dander, and mold that can cause asthma attacks, too.

    Indoor air is often warm and dry, and central heating systems circulate cold and flu viruses through offices and schools. Dry air irritates your airways, leaving you susceptible to an asthma attack.

    Your body naturally produces mucus to line and protect your sinuses, throat, lungs, and more from drying out. It keeps your airways moist, but dry air can make it evaporate quickly and lead to irritation. Once your airways are inflamed, they swell up and make it hard to breathe.

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    Identify And Avoid Your Triggers

    Asthma Australia – How cold dry air affects your asthma

    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.

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    Whats Happening In Your Childs Body

    When your childs airways come into contact with cold air, their body releases a chemical called Histamine. This is the same chemical released during anallergic reaction.

    During an allergic reaction, it can cause swelling, itchiness, and trouble breathing. Histamine can cause the lungs to swell making the airways tighter. When their airways are tight it makes it harder to take a good breath, which can result in an asthma attack.

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    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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    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.

    Why Asthma Can Be Worse In Winter And Steps To Manage Attacks

    What To Do Now if Your Asthma is Worse in Winter

    Asthma is a chronic condition that affects nearly 25 million people in America. Its a respiratory disease that makes breathing difficult and often comes with lung spasms, wheezing, and chest tightness.

    Your lungs are made of bronchi that transport air to and from your lungs. If you have asthma, your airways are easily inflamed. Inflamed airways swell, closing your breathing passages and making it hard for air to reach your lungs.

    Changes in your environment like weather, dust, and smoke can make your lungs extra sensitive. For many asthmatics, winter weather brings more frequent asthma attacks. The doctors at Wasatch Peak Family Practice can help you find an asthma treatment plan that works with your lifestyle.

    One of the best things you can do to prevent and manage asthma attacks in winter is to understand your triggers and know your treatment plan. Let us help you understand your asthma and how to control it.

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    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.

    Asthma Bronchitis And Other Respiratory Ailments

    According to medical experts, asthma symptoms, especially spasms, can be worsened by .

    When youre in a very low humidity environment, the fluid that hydrates your bronchial tubes can quickly evaporate. This can leave your airways vulnerable to irritation. This is especially likely during winter months.

    In addition to asthma, the symptoms of , , and other respiratory illnesses can also worsen if you spend too much time in an environment with overly dry air.

    If youve ever woken up in the night and found it difficult to swallow, it may not surprise you to learn that dry air can cause pain and inflammation .

    In a

    According to research, spending prolonged periods in very dry indoor air may increase your stress level.

    In a 2020 study , researchers monitored the heart rates and stress levels of workers in four separate buildings with varying levels of air humidity.

    The researchers found that those who worked in the buildings with drier air had heart rates that indicated a stress response. The same participants also reported poorer sleep.

    Spending long periods in very dry indoor surroundings can deplete your bodys fluid levels.

    In a 2006 study , researchers checked the hydration levels of workers who spent much of the day in low humidity environments.

    When they analyzed the workers urine, they found that it was much more concentrated than workers elsewhere in the plant. Urine concentration is one biomarker of dehydration.

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    How To Control Asthma In The Winter

    Staying indoors during winter may protect you from the cold air, but can still increase your asthma symptoms! Inside your home, you may be exposed to more indoor air pollutants, such as dust mite droppings, chemical off-gassing from cleaning products, or particulates and fumes from cooking. Increased time at home means more exposure and youre also in closer proximity to friends, coworkers, and family, which means germs spread faster, which can be especially problematic for those with viral-induced asthma.

    While it is impossible to avoid all asthma attacks, but knowing a few things can help you make good decisions about what is best for you.

    • Although you may benefit from the fresh air outside your home, try to stay indoors when the temperature drops well below freezing, especially if its below 10°F .
    • Keep your written asthma action plan up-to-date and actually, use it! Keep it visible and easy to reference for friends and family.
    • If spending more time indoors and at home, make sure to vacuum regularly to remove indoor triggers and allergens. Use a vacuum that is genuine HEPA certified.
    • Wash your blankets and sheets with increased frequency, and use hot water! Every week is best to ensure youre removing all dust mites.

    How Winter Can Affect Asthma

    How does cold weather affect asthma?

    Asthma symptoms can worsen in different environments and may vary with the seasons, and winter is no exception. Aside from dry, cold winter weather irritating airways, more time spent indoors means more exposure to indoor irritants . Winter can also bring an increased risk of viruses that can aggravate your asthma.

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    Wear Protective Gear And Breathe Through Your Nose

    Because cold air is very drying and irritating to the airways, it’s no wonder that it can increase your breathlessness. Wearing protective gear, like a scarf over your nose and mouth or a cold-weather mask, and breathing through your nose instead of your mouth warms and humidifies the inspired air before it gets to the airways. This prevents shortness of breath related to cold air-induced bronchospasm.

    Tips To Help Prevent Cold Weather Asthma

    Even though it can be challenging during winter for those with asthma, here are a few things that you can do as a parent to help your child enjoy this time of year.

    1. Bundle Up

    If possible, dont let your child go outside if the temperature drops below 10° F. If they have to go outside, be sure they wear warm, weather-appropriate clothing. One thing that should also be considered is wearing a scarf or fabric mask over the face. Wearing one of these over the mouth and nose can help prevent cold-weather asthma by warming the air before it reaches the lungs.

    2. Use your inhaler

    If your child plans on exercising or playing outside in the cold weather,ask your healthcare professional about having them use their inhaler 15-30 minutes before they go outside. This will open their airways, making it easier for them to breathe in the cold air.

    Also, be sure to have their inhaler nearby while they are outside. Even though they took their inhaler ahead of time, they could still experience an asthma attack from extreme cold. Either have them keep it in their pocket if theyre responsible, or hold onto it yourself and monitor their activity.

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