For anyone who lives with asthma, cold air can quickly turn into a trigger leading to an attack.
During winter months, cold air that enters the lungs can cause airway constriction, says Vanessa Foran, president and CEO of Asthma Canada.
“Winter can be a difficult season for people with asthma,” she says. “Respiratory viruses, such as the common cold and the flu, can trigger asthma symptoms. The flu or cold may evolve into bronchitis or pneumonia.”
She adds because we spend the majority of our time indoors during these months, people with asthma increase their exposure to other irritants like dust mites, pet dander, smoke, household cleaning products and gas fumes — any and all of which can be detrimental.
“Seasonal decorating can bring new sources of irritants into the home as well.”
Bring out the #scarfie
In the U.K., a recent campaign from Asthma UK is encouraging people with the chronic disease to cover their mouths and noses this winter with a scarf to avoid getting an attack — or take a #scarfie, Huffpost U.K. reports.
Asthmatic people are also encouraged to spread the campaign by taking a picture of themselves wearing a scarf and posting it on social media.
Foran says Asthma Canada is also on board with this message.
“Covering the nose and mouth with a scarf warms and moistens the air we breathe in and can prevent an asthma exacerbation,” she continues.
“The #scarfie campaign has done a great job of drawing attention to a simple preventative technique that everyone with asthma can implement in their lives during the winter months.”
Managing asthma in winter
And if you have asthma, there are several things you can do to prepare yourself for the cold. One of the most important reminders is to carry your prescribed reliever medication with you at all times — this will keep your asthma controlled and treated if you do have an attack.
Breathing, Foran adds, is also important.
“Breathe in through your nose. Your nose is designed to warm and humidify air.”
She also suggests coming up with an asthma action plan with your family doctor. This action plan is often used by doctors to help patients control their asthma and it allows them to create something personalized.
“The plan is based on frequency and severity of symptoms and/or results of peak flow monitoring and sets out how you should adjust your medication depending on how controlled your asthma is,” Asthma Canada notes.
People with asthma are also told to avoid outdoor exercise in cold weather, and always cover up with gloves and a hat when going out. Getting a flu shot every year is also crucial.
Everyday Health notes having asthma won’t make you more susceptible, but it could be a lot more serious if you do end up getting the flu.