Respiratory Diseases

Ways to Prevent Cold Weather Induced Asthma



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Asthma is a chronic lung condition in which many factors or ‘triggers’ can spark off an asthmatic attack. Among these triggers, the cold-weather as experienced during the winter months is an important element. For asthmatics, this is a time period which requires extreme care and vigilance in order to avoid potentially dangerous asthmatic attacks and maintain the quality of life to its fullest.

Before discussing the ways to prevent cold-weather induced asthma, one should understand how cold-weather could pose a threat to asthmatics. According to researchers, the effects of cold-weather could be many fold. In one aspect, it can cause the mucous layer to be thickened and abundant within the respiratory passages. This would mean that the removal of particles inhaled into the respiratory system is not efficient.

At the same time, the ability of the nose to warm the incoming air is also diminished for the same reason and also because excess blood flows through the tiny blood vessels of the nose and cause congestion or swelling within. As a result, air intake will also be less from the point of entry.

Furthermore, cold air reaching the lungs could also trigger the release of histamine which is a prerequisite for wheezing episodes. Altogether, the cold-weather makes a person more vulnerable to asthma attacks directly as well as by making them more susceptible to the usual asthma triggers.

Therefore, those who suffer from asthma require better understanding on how to prevent exposure to cold-weather during this period of time. Following is a brief description of some of the simplest yet important measures in achieving the same along with ways of minimizing the exposure to other trigger factors of asthma.

One possible means of preventing cold air from reaching the lungs is to cover the nose and the mouth with a scarf or breathing through a cold-weather mask during the winter time. It should be remembered that, breathing through the mouth will not allow the natural warming up of inhaled air as it happens when inhaled through the nose and therefore asthmatics will be better off breathing through the nose than through their mouth at all times. This points towards an important aspect of life for an asthmatic patient, as certain exercises will make a person breath through the mouth and during winter time, avoiding such sports will do better than its physical benefit.

Thus, experts suggest undertaking exercises such as cycling rather than jogging during the winter time, along with sports such as swimming which has always been recommended as one of the best form of exercises for an asthma sufferer. Indoor sports will be better for avoidance of cold weather and if in doubt, one should always discuss the options of exercise with his or her physicians before undertaking any such activity.

Another important aspect of preventing cold-weather induced asthma is to keep ones indoor environment free from dust and other asthma triggers as it is easy to get these accumulated during the winter months. Frequent vacuuming, keeping the surfaces of furniture dust free, using a quality air purifiers, bathing the pets regularly, covering the bedding, pillows and mattresses, washing the bedding, blankets, and stuffed toys regularly as well as allowing the moisture to escape as much as possible are some of the ways to keep the indoors clean and trigger free during the winter time.

Apart from these measures, one should not forget the medications as it is easy to forget when the symptoms are not apparent. At the same time, emergency medications for an asthma attack should also be at hand as it is impossible to guarantee 100% protection from an asthmatic attack even when all the preventive measures are practiced accordingly.

Lastly, asthmatic patients should discuss with their doctors the need to take the flu shot as this is a time period in which episodes of flu could be widespread and the chances of getting exposed much higher. While taking the necessary medical advice, patients with asthma should avoid getting in contact with persons suffering from flu as much as possible.

More about this author: Dr Pandula Siribaddana

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