Cold-induced asthma, otherwise known as winter asthma, occurs when an asthmatic person is exposed to cold and dry air, which intensifies their condition. Cold-induced asthma also increases the likelihood of asthma attacks. In this post, we’ll examine who is most susceptible to winter asthma, what the specific triggers are and how to prevent and treat it. We’ll also share how to get help from Western Washington Medical Group (WWMG).
Who is the most vulnerable?
The most vulnerable groups for cold-induced asthma are unfortunately people who already have severe cases of asthma. Individuals who are prone to getting the flu or common colds are also at an increased risk due to the inflammation in the airways, which these conditions cause. In addition, asthmatic people who primarily stay indoors may have allergens like mold and dust that can also cause respiratory issues, which adds to the risk. Those with minor cases of asthma are still susceptible to winter asthma, but less likely to be impacted.
Sufferers of asthma should watch for cold-induced asthma symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, difficulty speaking and a tightening of the chest when exposed to cold air.
What can trigger cold-induced asthma?
There are two factors involved in the causes of cold-induced asthma: cold and dry air. Inhaling either or both can cause airways to tighten. This can produce spasms and coughing, which can result in an asthma attack.
Exercise can also sometimes be to blame, as we tend to breathe more through our mouths when we exercise, yet our noses do a better job of warming air before it reaches our lungs.
How to prevent cold-induced asthma.
There are many ways to reduce the chances of getting cold-induced asthma.
- Stay current with any medications that you take to help manage your asthma.
- Clean and replace indoor filters for your heating ducts regularly to make sure that your indoor air is the cleanest it can be.
- Keep your home dry to inhibit the growth of dust mites.
- Use humidifiers in the home, but make sure to keep them mold-free.
- Get a flu shot.
- Wash hands, wear a mask and practice good personal hygiene to lessen the chances of catching a cold.
- Limit outdoor exercise, but when you do, use your inhaler 15 minutes prior to starting to open up your airways for easier breathing.
- Warm up thoroughly before all workouts.
- Drink extra fluids to keep the mucus in your lungs thinner.
- Wash sheets and blankets once or twice per week in hot water.
- Wear hats and scarves to help warm the air you’re breathing when outside.
- Listen to your body—if you know places and activities that typically cause a flare-up, do your best to modify behavior and avoid them.
- Create an asthma action plan with help from medical professionals who can offer the most up-to-date ways to manage symptoms.
What does treatment look like?
Treatment for a winter asthma attack usually begins with a short-acting inhaler, which may contain albuterol. Next, the patient should seek shelter in a warmer environment to start breathing warmer air as fast as possible. If the symptoms aren’t relieved by these actions, and the cold-induced asthma returns often, a doctor may prescribe longer-term treatments. These may include leukotriene receptor inhibitors or long-acting beta agonists. Inhaled corticosteroids may also be an option.
Contact Western Washington Medical Group
If you or a loved one would like the assistance of a WWMG medical professional to create a winter asthma action plan or need help managing symptoms, contact Western Washington Medical Group Family Practice to schedule an appointment. For more general inquiries, use the form on this page.