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Why Asthma Can Be Worse in Winter and Steps to Manage Attacks


For the 25 million Americans who have asthma, winter can be the most challenging time of year to stay healthy. 

The cold and dry conditions that occur during winter months can cause your airways to constrict and make it harder to breathe normally. These incidents, known as asthma attacks, can be prevented with lifestyle steps that help offset the challenges of living with asthma in winter.

With appropriate asthma treatment and lifestyle modifications, you can reduce the incidence of asthma attacks in winter. From our Washington Heights office in Manhattan, New York, our providers at CHW Cares offer expert diagnosis and treatment for patients of all ages who suffer from asthma. 

We can help you understand your triggers and manage your symptoms so you can breathe normally all year round. 

How to manage asthma this winter

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that involves the narrowing and inflammation of your airways. These symptoms, which result in difficulty breathing, occur in response to triggers. 

Allergens, like dust mites, animal dander, and pollen are common asthma triggers. Others include environmental factors like smoke or strong perfumes. The flu and upper respiratory infections can also provoke an asthma attack.

If you have asthma, your airways can become irritated when they encounter triggers. During the colder months, the dryness of winter air can make it more difficult to produce the protective mucus that coats and protects your airways. As a result, you may experience more asthma attacks during the winter months when you encounter triggers. 

Here are some precautions you can take to reduce your risk of an asthma attack during the winter months:

Control indoor air

When your furnace isn’t in use, dust and debris gradually accumulate on the stagnant filter during the warmer months. If you don’t replace your furnace filter before you turn it on for the first time each year, you risk blowing these allergens into your air vents and spreading them throughout your house.

Changing your furnace’s air filter at the beginning of the season and every month it’s in use can reduce your risk of asthma attacks in winter. This attention to proper furnace maintenance is one of the most effective ways to reduce your exposure to airborne triggers during the cold months.

Even with a clean filter, your furnace dries out the indoor air. Work to increase air moisture by setting your thermostat at a consistent temperature and using a humidifier, especially at bedtime. 

Restrict outdoor exercise

While outdoor exercise can be invigorating, extreme temperatures can irritate sensitive airways and provoke an asthma attack. Warming up before you go outside and warming the air you breathe can help prevent a winter asthma attack. 

Asthma sufferers who warm up before exercise usually have better lung function and faster recovery times. If you choose to exercise outdoors in winter, take these precautions before heading outside:

Prevent upper respiratory infections

Cold and flu viruses threaten everyone’s health in winter. However, asthma sufferers need to be especially vigilant about disease prevention because an asthma attack can result from even a mild respiratory infection. Getting sick can promote the production of too much mucus, clogging airways and preventing normal breathing. 

Reduce your risk of illness by getting an annual flu shot and ensuring that all household members over six months of age do the same. Limit your exposure to sick people. Take precautions against infection with frequent handwashing and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers. 

Manage medication

At any time of year, asthma management requires closely following your treatment plan. Close attention to your medication regimen ensures that your body is well-equipped to handle the challenges of any season. 

Maintain a schedule of regular checkups so your provider can monitor changing symptoms and 

modify medications as needed, such as recommending a preventive dose of medication before you head outdoors in the cold.

To find out more about how we can help you to manage your asthma this winter, schedule an appointment by calling our CHW Cares office or booking an appointment online today.

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