An estimated 262 million people throughout the world are affected by asthma, according to data pulled in 2019 by the World Health Organization. The long-term condition impacts both children and adults. In fact, it is the most common chronic disease among children.
Many people who suffer from asthma discover that asthma attacks occur more often in the winter months. This happens for two main reasons: People typically spend more time inside during the winter, and the cold weather.
Being indoors forces you to breathe in things that can trigger an asthma attack such as dust mites, pet dander and mold. However, inhaling the cold air outdoors during the colder months can also trigger an asthma attack.
If you suffer from asthma, it’s important that you know how to avoid winter asthma triggers so you can stay healthy during the colder months.
What is asthma?
When someone has asthma, the air passages inside their lungs narrow as a result of inflammation and tightening of the muscles around the small airways. This leads to common asthma symptoms, including shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing and wheezing.
It’s common for asthma symptoms, which are usually intermittent, to worsen during exercise or at night.
It’s important that asthma is properly diagnosed to avoid sleep disturbance, tiredness during the day and poor concentration. In some severe cases, asthma sufferers might require emergency medical care.
What causes asthma?
It can be difficult to target a single, direct cause of asthma; however, there are a number of factors that are linked to an increased risk of developing the disease, including:
- A family history of asthma, specifically if it runs in your immediate family.
- Suffering from other allergic conditions like hay fever or eczema.
- Being overweight or obese puts.
- Living in an urban environment.
- Being exposed to common asthma triggers like air pollution,moulds, house dust mites and chemicals.
- Early life events such as low-birth weight, exposure to tobacco smoke and prematurity.
Know what triggers your asthma
Inhaling an asthma trigger can force your airways to tighten and clog with mucus, often resulting in wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. To avoid these common asthma symptoms, you should discuss with your provider having tests done to determine what your triggers are.
Knowing your triggers will help you make small changes at home that can have a big impact on your asthma in the long run. For instance, you may be able to do the following to help improve your asthma symptoms, specifically during the winter months:
- Minimize your exposure to pets. If pet dander is a trigger for your asthma, you may want to keep your pets out of your bedroom so you don’t risk an attack while you’re sleeping.
- Protect your bedding.For many people with asthma, mites can be a trigger. If this is the case for you, consider using mite-proof covers on your mattress, box springs and pillows to keep dust mites away.
- Maintain a cool and dry house. It’s very difficult for dust mites and mold to exist in a cool and dry environment. When possible, keep your house cool and dry, especially during the winter. You can do this by running the fan in your bathroom anytime you’re bathing, using the exhaust fan in your kitchen while you cook or run your dishware and fixing pipes and windows that are leaking.
Prevent common illnesses
The common cold, the flu and COVID-19 are all major causes of asthma flare-ups. To combat these illnesses, have your family practice common prevention techniques, including:
- Washing your hands. This is an age-old way to prevent getting sick; however, it’s even more important as people do their best to avoid COVID-19. To be safe, wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds regularly. For more information on proper hand washing, check out this article from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Keeping distance from anyone who is sick.Before “social distancing” was a thing, it was always a best practice to keep your distance from friends or coworkers who have the cold or flu. Now the recommendation is to stay six feet away from others who may be sick (especially if you aren’t vaccinated for COVID-19).
- Getting your vaccines.It’s recommended that anyone over the age of six months get their flu shot each year. The CDC also strongly encouraged those who are 12 and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as well. Learn more about getting vaccinated for COVID-19 here.
Having asthma makes you a high-risk case should you get COVID-19, putting you at risk of major complications, so it’s critical that you do everything you can to stay healthy, no matter what time of year.
How to treat winter asthma
When left untreated, asthma can be a deadly disease, so it’s critical that you know the signs and symptoms so you can identify and treat your asthma. Treating asthma is about more than quick-relief meds — it often requires medication every day for long-term control of the disease.
If you’re on medication for asthma, always continue taking it unless told otherwise by your provider. Many people stop taking their medications once they no longer feel symptoms, which can result in a flare-up.
You should always talk with your provider about an asthma action plan, which includes directions on when to take each type of medication and when to call your provider or seek emergency medical help. Be sure to discuss your plan before the winter months so you have a clear strategy going into the cold weather.
If you or someone in your family is experiencing asthma-like symptoms without a diagnosis or has noticed an increase in symptoms during the winter months, consider visiting your local CareNow®.
We’ve got a staff of fully qualified physicians who are dedicated to serving you. With more than 150 urgent care locations throughout the United States, we strive to offer quality, convenient urgent care when you need it most.
Before your visit, be sure to use our online Web Check-In® feature so you can skip the waiting room!
Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.