Cold weather potentially dangerous for people with asthma

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WATCH: Breathing in cold air can take a huge toll on some people's health – Dec 9, 2019

Cold air is a common trigger for people with asthma. The extreme cold warning hitting Saskatchewan this week doesn’t just cause discomfort, it can also be dangerous.

Asthma is a chronic, long-term lung disease that causes inflammation in the lungs. It can affect people at any age and the severity of symptoms can vary.

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If airways close, symptoms include a shortness in breath and coughing. There is no cure for asthma. When left untreated, it can be fatal. However, there are ways to treat it and people with asthma can have a normal life.

“There’s multiple kinds of inhalers that you would be taking generally on a regular basis and then sometimes on different occasions when you might need it,” Jaimie Peters, an educator with the Saskatchewan Lung Association said.

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People with asthma can be triggered by a variety of things and might need to take their inhaler more frequently when exposed to things including dust, smoke and cold air. Triggers should be avoided as much as possible, but it’s nearly impossible to stay away from cold air in Saskatchewan at this time of year.

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Sixteen-year-old Brie Kleiboer’s asthma acts up in the cold.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s -10 C or -40 C, sometimes it’s just the day and perhaps how her immune system is acting,” Brie’s mother and Saskatchewan Lung Association program manager Lori Kleiboer said. “Taking in a breath of cold air, your nose doesn’t have a chance to warm that air up before it hits your lungs.”

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On any cold day, Brie takes her daily medication at a higher dose. Taking precautionary measures has prevented Brie from ever having an asthma attack.

The Lung Association suggests staying bundled in the cold weather, and covering your face with a scarf if cold air affects your breathing.

It’s normal for extremely cold temperatures to take your breath away, but if it impacts your normal daily activity you might have asthma. Specialists can assess your symptoms to determine if you have asthma with breathing tests.