Cold weather can be tough on people with asthma, even here in California where temperatures can drop to the 40s. If it feels like your asthma symptoms get worse during the winter months, you likely aren’t imagining it. Research shows hospital admissions due to asthma increase during the winter months.
Cold air can aggravate asthma symptoms and make the condition more difficult to control. There are things you can do to control asthma during the winter and keep yourself as healthy as possible.
Cold weather and asthma
For many people with asthma, going outside in the winter months can make breathing a chore and increase the chances of having an asthma attack. The cold, dry air can irritate your airways, sending your muscles into a spasm. Additionally, cold and flu viruses are more prevalent during the winter, adding to the problem.
Here at Riviera Allergy Medical Center, our team, led by immunologist and asthma specialist Dr. Ulrike Ziegner, recommends taking a few practical steps to better manage your asthma this winter.
1. Get the flu shot
Cold and flu cause upper respiratory infections that exacerbate asthma symptoms. They spread more easily in lower temperatures, increasing the chances of getting a cold or flu during the winter.
The flu vaccine offers the best protection throughout the flu season. Keeping the flu at bay during the winter will help keep your lungs in better shape and lower the chances of triggering asthma symptoms or making them worse.
2. 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 isn’t much of a problem. However, it’s best to stick to indoor exercise to avoid triggering asthma symptoms if you have the condition.
3. Wear a scarf
Scarves aren’t just for the coldest temperatures. Wearing a scarf over your mouth during cooler months provides a barrier that will help protect your airways. As the air passes through the scarf, it warms before it passes through your mouth. In this way the scarf acts as a filter that can help you breathe easier when you’re outdoors during winter.
4. Avoid sitting by a fireplace
There’s nothing like sitting by a warm, wood-burning fire when it’s chilly out, but if you have asthma, you’d do best to avoid it. The wood that burns in a fireplace releases fumes that can irritate the lungs of people with asthma.
So, while sitting by the fireplace may seem like a cozy idea, the smoke is bad news for your lungs and can trigger or worsen asthma symptoms.
5. Breathe through your nose
It might feel natural to breathe through your mouth to warm yourself up if you’re bustling about in the winter. If you have asthma, however, it’s an unhelpful practice.
Among its many jobs, the nose filters and warms the air as it enters your nasal passages, before it reaches the lungs. When you breathe through your mouth, you take in cold air that isn’t warmed as you breathe it in, making it harder to breathe and raising the risk of triggering asthma symptoms.
For most people, cold and asthma don’t mix. Don’t let the cold worsen your asthma symptoms and make the winter dreary. Keep your lungs healthy this winter with the tips we’ve shared here.
To find out more about how you can best manage your asthma symptoms year-round, visit us at Riviera Allergy Medical Center. Call us at 310-504-3242 to schedule a visit with Dr. Ziegner at our Redondo Beach, California office. You can also request an appointment online, or send us a message here on our website.