When winter comes, do you find yourself or your kids experiencing more asthma symptoms and flare-ups? No wonder, as winter can bring its own troubles for asthmatics. Winter asthma control is a bit like walking a tight-rope. This time of the year can be beautiful, but it brings with it cold, dry air, increased exposure to colds and flu, dust mites and other asthma triggers. In spite of these asthma triggers, you can still enjoy winter by following a few tips on winter asthma control.
Winter Asthma Triggers
Many people believe asthma symptoms should be relieved during the winter season due to non-existent levels of pollen and other irritants commonly found in spring and summer. However, winter brings its own asthma triggers. Hereís a list of some winter asthma triggers and some solutions to help you avoid asthma trouble this time of the year.
Cold temperatures and dry air. Winter brings colder temperatures outdoors, along with drier air indoors and out. The danger of cold temperatures lies in the fact that cold air can cause the airways to spasm, leading to an asthma flare-up and possibly an asthma attack. Many people, when exercising, breathe through their mouths rather than their noses. To avoid this problem, be sure to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth. Breathing through your nose is a way of warming and moisturizing the air before it hits your airways. Wearing a scarf over your nose and mouth is another way to warm and moisturize cold air before it reaches your lungs. Also check with your doctor to see if itís OK to pre-medicate before going outdoors. Using your short-acting rescue inhaler 10 to 15 minutes before going out can help to relax and open your airways. Always make sure to keep your rescue inhaler and emergency medications with you at all times.
To avoid dry air in your home, you might think of using a humidifier. But be careful. Humidity levels higher than 50% can cause dust mites and mold to thrive. Use a hygrometer to keep track of the humidity levels in your home when using a humidifier. Itís also important to keep your humidifier clean. Humidifiers can harbor mold and mildew if not regularly cleaned. Using a dirty humidifier can actually spread mold and mildew spores into the air.
Indoor air quality and dust mites. Cold temperatures keep us indoors most of the time, exposing us to indoor air contaminants. Indoor air pollution is another major trigger of asthma symptoms and attacks common in the winter months. Indoor air pollution includes cigarette smoke, smoke from fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, scented candles and potpourri, household cleaners, mold and mildew. To help keep your indoor air clean and safe, avoid the use of strong scents, and be sure living areas are well-ventilated when using a fireplace or wood-burning stove. Also be sure to ventilate all rooms when using household cleaners. Ask smokers to smoke outside to keep your indoor air free of smoke and harmful chemicals. To avoid mold and mildew, keep humidity levels around 45%. Itís also a good idea to ventilate bathrooms and laundry rooms to help steam to escape to avoid the growth of mildew and mold. And keeping a clean house, by daily vacuuming and dusting, helps to control dust mites in your home.
Colds and flu. Every winter we an expect cold and flu viruses to appear like clockwork. None of us can avoid catching colds and flu during the winter months. We are constantly indoors, close together, making it easier for germs and viruses to pass from one person to the next. However, the best defense against germs and viruses is simple hand-washing and covering your mouth when you cough. The next best defense is taking all allergy and asthma medications as prescribed every day. Itís also important to take daily peak flow measurements in order to see if your asthma is stable or worsening. Another recommendation is to be sure and get your flu shot, but check with your doctor to make sure the flu vaccine is safe for your specific conditions.
If you or your child does catch a cold or the flu, be sure to seek your doctor or health care providerís advice about what cold/flu medications to take. Some cold medications contain drugs to help dry up a runny nose. While these medicines do help you to breathe easier, they can also act on the airways in a negative way by drying up the beneficial mucous in your nasal passages and lungs. Cough medications can also be dangerous for your asthma for the same reason, and help stop coughs that are helpful to remove mucous from your lungs. So always seek your doctorís advice about which medicines are safe for you and your children when sick with a cold or the flu. (249)
If you practice good hygiene, follow your daily action plan, take all of your medications as directed and take precautions against cold air and indoor air pollution you can enjoy a wonderful and happy winter season with your family and friends.
Wishing you all a happy winter!