Winter can be a tough time to stay healthy for a lot of reasons. Bad weather and short days mean most of us are living a more sedentary lifestyle during this time of year, reaching for comfort foods and sapping our vitamin D supply. And that’s not to mention what the cold, dry days can do to your skin. For people with asthma, just breathing can be more of a challenge during the wintertime, with many reporting more frequent asthma attacks when it gets colder out. There are a couple of different reasons why asthma might pose more of a problem during this frigid time of year, and it’s important to be aware of what might place you at a higher risk of respiratory issues.
Cold Air is Harder to Breathe
When air is inhaled through the nose or mouth, it gains warmth and moisture which allows it to be more easily processed by the lungs. Breathing cold air requires more energy from the body, and this process can also dry out the airways. This can cause the respiratory system to tighten, resulting in an asthma attack. Strenuous physical activity is a common contributor, and people will frequently find themselves having more difficulty breathing during outdoor winter activities such as running or shoveling the driveway. You can reduce your risk of cold-related asthma attacks by:
- Covering your face: We’ve been masking up for the past year to avoid COVID-19, but this can also warm the air you breathe and make respiration easier on your airways.
- Limiting outdoor exertion: Exercising outdoors has a lot of positives, even when it’s cold, but make sure not to push yourself too hard. Indoor workouts are likely to take less of a toll.
- Keeping your prescriptions up to date: If you have asthma but haven’t experienced symptoms in awhile, keep in mind that an attack is more likely to rear its head during the winter. Make sure that you’re still taking any necessary medications and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about treatment.
Staying Inside Can Trigger Asthma Symptoms
While the weather outside is frightful, it’s also important to account for the asthma triggers that can affect us when we’re not leaving the house. The home can be a minefield of respiratory irritants such as pet dander, dust, and mold. Triggers differ from person to person, but breathing in one or more of these can also cause spasms and tightening of the airways. Talk to a doctor to establish which triggers are connected to your asthma symptoms, and take necessary precautions, such as:
- Cleaning regularly: When you’re spending your days indoors, it’s important to stay on top of the accumulation of dust, dirt, and other particles that may make breathing more difficult.
- Maintaining pet-free spaces: We love our furry friends, but spending a lot of time around them means contact with allergens that can cause asthma attacks. Keeping them out of your bedroom can help limit your exposure to dander.
- Keeping your space cool and dry: Dust, mold, and other allergens are less likely to gather in an environment that is cool and dry. Using a dehumidifier can make a big difference.
- Ensuring proper ventilation: Allergens and irritants are more likely to proliferate in stale, stagnant air, so make sure to maintain good airflow in your home. This can include things as simple as using a range hood over your cooking surfaces or running the bathroom fan while showering.
Avoid Seasonal Illnesses
In addition to the coronavirus pandemic that is still ongoing, wintertime means cold and flu season, which can have a nasty effect on your respiratory system. Make sure that you’re washing your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water, and avoid close contact with people who are sick. You can also get a flu shot to reduce your risk.
Know Your Risk
Being aware of your asthma symptoms and what is most likely to cause a flare-up is key to protecting your respiratory health. Keep track of when you have asthma attacks in order to identify triggers and keep your doctor apprised of any patterns or recurring issues. Medical Offices of Manhattan also offers allergy tests that can pinpoint which irritants are the likely source of the issue.