Asthma & Winter Disease
Asthma is a type of chronic lung condition that causes your airways to become narrow, inflamed, & clogged with mucus. It can make breathing difficult for you and can cause wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Asthma attacks can be triggered by a variety of things, including cold air, exercise, tobacco smoke, certain types of allergens, and air pollution. For many people, asthma attacks are worse in the winter season.
Cold air can irritate the airways and cause them to narrow, making it more difficult to breathe. In addition, cold air can cause an increase in mucus production, which can further clog the airways. Some people with asthma may find that they experience more asthma attacks during the winter months due to these factors.
Why is Asthma Common in Winter?
There are several reasons why asthma attacks may be more common in the winter months:
- Cold air can irritate the airways and trigger asthma symptoms.
- Indoor Air Pollution: Many people spend more time indoors during the winter, when levels of air pollution may be higher due to things like tobacco smoke and wood-burning stoves. This can trigger asthma symptoms.
- Respiratory Infections: The winter months often coincide with the flu season, and respiratory infections such as the flu and colds can make asthma worse.
- Allergens: Some people with asthma are sensitive to allergens, such as mould and dust mites, which can be more prevalent in the winter due to the increased time spent indoors.
- Dry air: Dry air can irritate the airways and make asthma symptoms worse.
- Stress: The holiday season, which falls in the winter months in many parts of the world, can be a time of increased stress, which can trigger asthma symptoms.
- Lack of physical activity: Many people are less active during the winter months, which can lead to weight gain and other risk factors for asthma.
Indications (Symptoms) of Asthma
The asthma attack symptoms can vary in severity but may include the following:
- Shortness of Breath: This may feel like you are not getting enough air or that you are out of breath after mild activity.
- Chest Tightness: You may feel like there is a band around your chest that is making it difficult to breathe.
- Wheezing: This is a high-pitched whistling sound that can be heard when you exhale.
- Coughing: You may have a persistent cough that produces mucus, or you may have a dry cough.
- Difficulty Speaking: You may have trouble speaking due to shortness of breath.
Tips to Effectively Manage your Asthma in Winter
Here are some tips for managing asthma during the winter months:
Stay Warm: Get dressed in warm & cosy clothes and stay inside when it is very cold outside. Cold air can irritate the airways and trigger asthma symptoms.
Use Your Inhaler Regularly: If you have been prescribed an inhaler for your asthma, make sure to use it as directed by your doctor.
Avoid Triggers: Try to avoid things that can trigger your asthma, such as tobacco smoke and certain types of air pollution.
Stay Away from Colds & Flu: The flu and colds can make asthma worse, so try to avoid getting sick by washing your hands frequently and getting the flu vaccine.
Stay Active: Regular physical activity can help manage asthma symptoms, so try to stay active during the winter months by finding indoor activities that you enjoy.
Humidifier: Dry air can generally irritate the airways and make asthma symptoms worse. Using a good quality humidifier can help add moisture to the air and reduce asthma symptoms.
Make Sure Your Home is Well-Ventilated: Proper ventilation can help reduce the risk of indoor air pollution, which can trigger asthma symptoms.
Follow your dedicated Asthma Action Plan: If you have an asthma action plan, make sure to follow it closely to help manage your symptoms and prevent asthma attacks.
If you experience an asthma attack during the winter months, it is important to take it seriously and seek medical attention if necessary. It is important to try to remain calm and not panic. If your doctor has prescribed an inhaler for asthma, use it as directed.
Some things that may help to relieve asthma symptoms include sitting upright, taking slow, deep breaths, and using a humidifier. If your asthma symptoms do not improve after using an inhaler or if you are having difficulty speaking or breathing, seek medical attention immediately.
Dr. Deepak Talwar
Chairman - Metro Respiratory Center
Metro Group of Hospitals