UNDERSTANDING ASTHMA

Winter Asthma Triggers
Author: Alres Dinnall, RN, M.Ed

BREATHE EASY THIS WINTER!

There are certain weather patterns that are known to cause problems for people with asthma. Winter is one of them. Cold air is a major trigger of asthma. Scientists have studied the effects of breathing cold air. People with asthma were made to inhale cold, dry air in a hospital experiment. They developed wheezing and became short of breath.

When you inhale a blast of cold air, your airways respond by going into bronchospasm. (Bronchospasm is contraction of the airways, which causes them to get narrow.) This is because of the severe temperature difference between the outside air and your airways. Think of what you might feel if you suddenly place your hand into a bucket of freezing cold ice water! Brrr…

People who have exercise-induced asthma should be especially careful about exposure to cold, dry air. Popular outdoor winter sports like hockey, figure skating and skiing require spending a lot of time outdoors. And many runners continue to jog throughout the winter months. Pre-medicate yourself before beginning activities that cause asthma symptoms to worsen. Talk to your doctor about what medication is right for your particular need.

Obviously, you can’t change the weather, but you can take steps to avoid exposure to it. Be aware of the pattern of when you experience symptoms. Keep a diary of weather conditions and track asthma flare-ups. Take asthma medication appropriately and visit your doctor for periodic asthma tune-ups.

Take Steps to Avoid Winter Asthma Flare-ups

  1. WEAR A SCARF OR MASK OVER NOSE AND MOUTH.
  2. DO NOT DIRECTLY INHALE BLASTS OF COLD AIR.
  3. EXERCISE INDOORS ON DAYS WHEN THE AIR IS PARTICULARLY COLD, DRY.
  4. RUN ON AN INDOOR TRACK DURING THE COLDEST WINTER MONTHS.
  5. PLAY WINTER SPORTS INDOORS – ICE SKATING, HOCKEY.
  6. USE MEDICATION APPROPRIATELY, AND BEFORE BEGINNING EXERCISE.
  7. KEEP QUICK-RELIEF RESCUE INHALERS CLOSE BY AND IN A WARM PLACE.
  8. STAY INDOORS ON ESPECIALLY WINDY WINTER DAYS.
Is today a BAD AIR DAY? How is the GROUND-LEVEL OZONE pollution today?
To get these answers, call the

AIR QUALITY HOTLINE at 1-800-882-1497

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and the American Lung Association
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