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Why is Asthma Worse in the Winter?

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By Ruth MacEachern

Product Manager

Feb 05, 2020

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties. It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also develop for the first time in adults. There are certain triggers for asthmatic conditions such as; exercise, pollution, pollen and the weather. For many people, asthma is harder to control during winter months and here’s why. 

Winter is a problematic time for those who suffer with asthma, as it’s so cold out we spend more time inside but unfortunately being inside means exposure to things like mould, pet dander and dust mites. Ways to combat these triggers is to; sadly limit your time around pets it maybe difficult but it’s for the best you pet definitely doesn’t want you to have an asthma attack on their part. You should also change your bedding more frequently and up the vacuuming. Additionally, ventilation can help combat all these triggers, positive input ventilation prevents mould, reduces the allergens in pet dander and reduces dust mites.

Being outside is equally difficult for asthma sufferers, cold, dry air can irritate the airways and cause muscles to spasm. Ways to help combat this are;

  • Limit exercising outside - even people without asthma sometimes experience shortness of breath when they exercise in cold weather. If you have asthma, indoor activities like taking a fitness class or swimming may be better options.
  • Wrap up - covering your mouth with a scarf when you’re outside will help protect your airways by warming the air before you breathe it in.

Winter also means the inevitable cold and flu virus circulating which is bad news for everyone but especially asthma sufferers. A cold or respiratory tract infection can exacerbate asthma symptoms. There are ways to also try and combat this;

  • Get the flu vaccine - Having asthma won’t make you more susceptible, but if you do get the flu, the results could be more serious, even if you keep your asthma symptoms under control. It’s important that people with asthma get the injectable form of the flu vaccine made with inactivated [killed] flu virus.
  • Regularly wash your hands – wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and use hand sanitizer when you’re out and about.
  • Also refrain from touching your face, germs are picked up from touching door handles and then into your body through mouth, nose or eyes. 

If you’ve got asthma, your airways are sensitive and irritable. They react to triggers like cold air by tightening up and making it hard to breathe. Using your preventer inhaler as prescribed soothes your airways over time, so they’re less sensitive. That means they’re less likely to react to any of your winter asthma triggers – so you can get on with life.

Always carry your reliever inhaler (usually blue) with you in case you need it in an emergency. Take it if you get sudden symptoms because your airways have tightened up in reaction to a trigger. Your reliever inhaler quickly opens up your airways, relaxing them so you can breathe more easily again within minutes. But it’s only an emergency fix. It doesn’t stop your airways being so sensitive that they react to the triggers in the first place – you need to take your preventer inhaler regularly as prescribed for that.

Lastly, you should speak with your doctor as winter season approaches and come up with an asthma action plan to ensure you have everything you need.  

After battling the elements all day the last thing you want to do is come home to a cold, dry atmosphere. A good solution is to invest in a whole-house ventilation system. ATMOS® gently ventilates the home from a central position on a landing from within your loft. It is a sophisticated whole home ventilation and condensation control unit which transforms a stagnant and stale atmosphere into a fresh, healthy and condensation-free environment. By drawing in fresh, filtered and clean air from outside, ATMOS® dilutes, displaces and replaces moisture-laden air to control humidity levels so that condensation, mould and other indoor contaminants are significantly reduced.

Having good indoor air quality is paramount to the occupants health especially those who suffer with asthma. By controlling the substances that trigger asthma and allergies to between 45-60%, dust mites are less able to breed and the population will diminish, helping asthma and dust mite sufferers to breathe more easily. If you would like to discuss your ventilation options a member of the team would be more than happy to talk through options and even arrange a free survey.