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Cold Temperatures & Asthma: The Facts

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Are you an asthma sufferer? If so, you may have noticed that when temperatures dip, you find it harder to breathe. Why is this and, more importantly, what can you do about it? Especially with winter in full force, it’s important to understand the link between cold temperatures and asthma. 

The Causes of Cold-Induced Asthma

There are many reasons why the cold can exacerbate asthma symptoms. For example, cold air:

  1. Is dry. Did you know that your airways are lined with a thin layer of fluid? It’s true. The problem is, though, that breathing in dry air evaporates that fluid more quickly than it can be replenished. And a dry airway is an irritated and swollen airway, which spells bad news for asthma sufferers. 
  2. Boosts the production of histamine. If you’re familiar with antihistamines, you know that they are a treatment for allergies. As the name suggests, they reduce or block histamines. Histamines, when they overreact, are the trigger for wheezing, sneezing and other symptoms. Unfortunately, cold air can cause the body to produce more of this substance, which can worsen asthma. 
  3. Increases mucus production. While the airways are generally protected by a layer of mucus, mucus production kicks into overdrive in the cold. Not only do you produce more of it, but it’s stickier and thicker than normal. So instead of removing unhealthy particles, which is its usual job, it can trap germs in the airways. This can lead to colds and infections that, in turn, can cause asthma flare-ups. 
  4. Prolongs exposure to indoor allergens. Cold weather keeps most people indoors. And while it would seem that being out of the cold would be an easy fix, the indoors have a downside too. From dust to mold spores to pet dander, all of which thrive indoors, there are plenty of allergens to be had. For many, these trigger asthma symptoms

Now that we know why the cold triggers asthma symptoms, one question remains. When cold-induced asthma hits, what can you do?

Keeping Cold-Induced Asthma Under Control 

Ideally, you’ll want to prepare for the cold long before winter arrives. If your asthma is under control before temperatures fall, you’ll be less likely to have severe issues when they do. To that end, you’ll want to work with a board-certified allergist to create and implement a tailored asthma action plan, which may include emergency medications and maintenance medications for long-term control of your symptoms. 

Besides this, you should also: 

  • Cover your nose and mouth when out in the cold to warm the air before you breathe it in.
  • Opt for indoor exercise and otherwise stay inside when it’s chilly out (but make sure to keep your home clean to cut down on allergens that could cause symptoms).
  • Stay hydrated to thin the mucus in your airways and make it easy for germs to be removed before they can make you sick.
  • Avoid anyone who may be sick, be diligent about handwashing and make sure to get your flu shot.

If you do all of the above, you can limit asthma-related troubles when cold temperatures come. 

If you’re interested in taming your cold-weather asthma symptoms, request an appointment with our team today.

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