As summer turns into fall, temperatures drop, which often excites people who enjoy watching the seasons change. For those living with asthma, changing seasons create new triggers that can provoke asthma attacks. Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects about one in 12 people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Asthma’s most common symptoms are difficulty breathing, a tight feeling in your chest, and coughing.
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 (pet dander).
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
When it gets colder, more people tend to stay indoors, which causes colds and the flu to begin circulating during the winter months. These infections can also trigger asthma attacks. And, when you are indoors, you are in the same setting that dust, mold, pet dander, and other allergens reside.
How to prepare for this year
The increased triggers can really put a damper on the winter months, but they don’t have to! If you are looking for some ways to avoid weather-related asthma attacks, follow these tips by Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD:
- Watch the forecast for pollen, mold counts, and other conditions (extreme cold or heat) that might affect your asthma.
- Wear a scarf over your mouth and nose when outside in cold weather.
- Carry quick-relief medicine (also called rescue or fast-acting medicine) on hand—always.
Winter does not have to get the best of you. If you are prepared and know what triggers your asthma, you can prevent having an attack despite the cold. Before the winter months hit, see your doctor and make sure your asthma is under control.