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Dealing with Asthma in Winter Weather

Woman breathing during the winter

Download the full article here!

What is asthma?

  • When you breathe, air goes to your lungs through airways or breathing tubes.
  • Asthma is a chronic disease that causes airways to be more sensitive, making it difficult to breathe.

Asthma attacks happen when your airways get swollen and narrow.

  • An asthma attack can feel like breathing through a thin straw.
  • With less space for the air to go through, it is harder for air to get in and out of the lungs.

Who is likely to develop asthma?

  • People with family members who have asthma.
  • People with allergies.
  • People frequently exposed to irritants – like smoke, pollution, or chemicals.
  • People with frequent respiratory infections.

Asthma affects both children and adults.

  • Asthma usually starts in children between 2 to 6 years old.
  • Asthma can also develop in adulthood.
    • Someone who had asthma as a child may develop it again as an adult.

There is no cure for asthma, but asthma can be managed.

  • Ways you can prevent and treat asthma:
    • Learn about asthma
    • Ask your doctor about new developments and creating an asthma action plan
    • Take prescribed medications
    • Monitor your health and breathing patterns
    • Allergy proof your home
    • Stay indoors when pollution is high
    • Choose healthy foods you are not allergic to

Your doctor can prescribe two kinds of medication.

  • One to use when you have an attack:
    • Emergency relief medication quickly opens up your airways
    • This usually comes in an inhaler
  • Another to prevent asthma attacks:
    • You may be able to take medication daily to prevent attacks
    • This may be a pill or can come in an inhaler

Asthma attacks can be triggered by:

  • Allergic reactions to:
    • Pollen, dust, mold, cockroaches
    • Food – like milk, eggs, peanuts
  • Things that irritate your lungs:
    • Smoke, weather changes, pollution, cold/dry air, perfumes, fumes from cleaning products
  • Strenuous Activity – like exercise

Asthma attacks can also be triggered by:

  • Emotions – like anxiety, stress
  • An upper respiratory tract infection – like a cold, flu or infection in the sinuses
  • GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease

You may be having an asthma attack if you have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • A tight or painful feeling in your chest
  • A whistling or hissing sound when you breathe (called wheezing)
  • A cough

Asthma attacks often don’t stop on their own, so you need to act quickly!

  • Watch your breathing for:
    • Shortness of breath
    • Wheezing
    • Coughing
  • Keep an inhaler with you at all times.
  • Tell someone right away if you feel any signs of an asthma attack.

You can learn what triggers an asthma attack by asking yourself:

  • When did the attack happen?
  • What was I doing before the attack?
  • Where was I before the attack?
  • How was I feeling before the attack?

Use this worksheet to write down answers to these questions!

Avoid the triggers that cause your attacks.

  • Dust and vacuum your home often.
  • Keep indoor air clean with air filters and air conditioning.
  • Write down your allergies so you know what to avoid.
  • Prevent colds, the flu, and other infections.

Winter weather can increase the risk of asthma attacks.

  • Breathing the cold, dry winter air can trigger asthma attacks.
    • Wear a scarf or facemask over your nose and mouth to warm the air you breathe.
    • Exercise indoors, like swimming in a heated pool.
    • Drink lots of liquids to keep your airways hydrated.
  • Check out these websites to learn more about asthma.
    • Asthma Basics
    • Three steps to better asthma control
    • Tips to Remember: Asthma triggers and management
Last updated on Thu, 06/10/2010 - 11:04