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How to Manage Winter Asthma?

Asthma is a health condition that leads to inflammation and narrowing of the airways. If you or anyone else in the family has asthma, you probably know how the changing seasons can affect the symptoms. The winter season is no exception. With the temperatures, dipping below normal, cold-induced asthma can make your symptoms worse. Sometimes the symptoms become so severe that even going out or doing light exercises can make breathing difficult, followed by wheezing and coughing.

How are Cold Weather and Asthma Attacks Related?

In people who have asthma, the airways tend to get inflamed when subjected to specific triggers. When the airways swell, they get narrow; and it becomes hard to inhale air properly. It is the reason why people who have asthma often face issues while breathing, and the winter season aggravates the situation even more. According to a study (2014), admissions to healthcare facilities due to asthma increase manifold during the winter season

Exposure to cold weather causes cold air to be inhaled into the airways. It increases the chances of a possible asthma attack.

Why Can Cold Air be Troublesome for Asthmatics?

There are several reasons why cold air can be troublesome for people with asthma.

Cold Air is usually on the Drier Side!

A layer of fluid lines your air passages. So, when you inhale cold and dry air, the lining tends to volatilize faster than inhaling air at room temperature. It is easy for dry air passages to get inflamed and irritated, making asthma symptoms worse.

Cold air can provoke histamine production. It is a chemical your body makes in response to an allergen attack. This chemical can cause wheezing and worsening of asthma symptoms.

Cold Increase the Production of Mucus

The mucus layer that lines airways to remove allergens and other pollutants from the inhaled air. During the winter season, your body happens to secrete more mucus than average. It might make you more susceptible to cold, cough, and other infections.

The Winter Season is more about Respiratory Infections.

During winters, cold, cough, fever, and other respiratory conditions are quite common. These illnesses can act as triggers for an asthma attack.

You spend more time Indoors

When you spend more time indoors during cold weather, you are more prone to allergies caused by indoor allergens, including dirt, dust, pet dander, mold, among others. These allergens can also induce symptoms of asthma.

Make sure to pay a visit to your doctor if your asthma symptoms tend to worsen.

What factors other than cold weather can lead to an Asthma Attack?

Apart from cold air, there are many other triggers for inducing an asthma attack. It includes the following:

  • Strong smells and scents
  • Smoke, especially tobacco smoke
  • Stress
  • Excessive Workouts
  • Viral infections
  • Bacterial infections

What are the Symptoms of a Winter-Induced Asthma Attack?

Following are the telltale signs of an asthma attack:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Chest pain
  • A feeling of tightness in the chest

When Should You Seek Medical Attention?

Follow the instructions given in your asthma action plan as soon as you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above. In case your symptoms are severe, and you cannot even breathe or talk properly, take your emergency medications, and call your doctor right away.

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How Can You Manage Winter-Induced Asthma?

When it comes to managing winter-induced asthma, we should take into account many factors, including environmental and genetic. Here is how you can manage and avoid getting asthma attacks:

Try Avoiding Allergy-Causing Organisms and Other Triggers

Inhaling a pollutant or being near a possible trigger can irritate your airways and cause an asthma attack. The best thing to do here is to identify those triggers and avoid them as much as you can.

Install a High-Quality Air-Filtration System

An efficient air-filtration system clears the air inside your home and eliminates pollutants and asthma triggers, including pollen, molds, smoke, dust, dirt, and mites, among others. As per the ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers), air filtration units with particulate filters can clean up to 99.97% allergens. Therefore, you should consider installing one and let it work with other systems at your home so that you can enjoy clean air and keep asthma at bay.

Get a Humidifier

Humidifiers are designed to increase the level of moisture in the air by discharging water vapor. In many asthma sufferers, increasing the moisture content in the air can help in easing the symptoms. However, make sure to use a humidifier very carefully, or else the symptoms could worsen due to too high a moisture content in the air. According to the AAAI (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology), the ideal range of humidity should be 30% to 45%.

Preventive Medications

There are two categories of asthma medications – medications to take in the long run and regularly and instant-relief drugs for fast relief. Asthma medications are available in the following forms:

  • Tablets
    • Inhalers
    • Shots
    • Liquid

Other preventive asthma medications include:

  • Inhaled corticosteroids. This drug helps in blocking inflammation. Although these are considered the most vital medications for asthma, there are some long-term side effects.
    • Leukotriene modifiers. These drugs also prevent inflammation by blocking the production of leukotrienes (inflammatory chemicals).
    • Beta-agonists or bronchodilators. It makes breathing easy by relaxing the muscles that control the movement of your air passages.
  • Get An Asthma Action Plan

According to the American Lung Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other noted asthma experts, it is highly advisable to work with your healthcare provider and get an asthma action plan. It will help you manage asthma properly and effectively.

A typical asthma action plan is a document wherein you can feed all crucial and relevant information about your condition. It includes information such as the medications you take daily, emergency pills you should keep handy, your symptoms, and how you can control them.

  • Lung Function Test

It is essential to undergo a lung function test to understand if your medications are working correctly or not. For this, you can get a device (handheld) known as a peak flow meter. It will help you monitor the volume of air that flows from your lungs. With this device’s help, you can find out if there is a narrowing in the air passage even before experiencing any signs or symptoms. You can take readings and compare the peak flow at different time intervals to identify the following:

  • What are the triggers?
    • When should you start or stop a medicine?
    • When should you rush to the doctor?

Conclusion

If you have asthma, keep your asthma action plan within easy reach and stick to it. Also, as cold weather is likely to induce asthma, take the necessary precautions and medications on time.

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