Minimizing Triggers

Watch Out For These Four Cold Weather Asthma Triggers

John Bottrell Health Pro November 30, 2009
  • Every asthmatic, as well as parents of asthmatic children, must be watchful for the four asthma triggers that come about in the cold weather seasons. While many of these triggers are difficult to avoid, there are things we can do to prevent them from triggering asthma. 

     

    Cold airCold air can trigger an asthma attack.  I remember going sledding with my brothers when I was a kid and having an asthma attack nearly every time.  This was very frustrating for me. 

     

    It took me a while, but eventually I realized it was the cold air itself that was triggering my asthma.  Eventually I learned that it wasn't just me but most asthma and other chronic lungers whose lungs are affected this way by cold air.

     

    While these may take some of the fun out of cold weather games, there are some tips for dealing with and preventing cold air asthma attacks:

    • Wear a scarf over your mouth and nose 
    • Do not exercise outdoors.  
    • Be compliant with your medicine regimen.
    • Make sure you keep your quick-relief inhaler (albuterol) handy at all times.

    I don't know about other asthmatics, but when cold air triggers my asthma it causes my lungs to feel like they're burning and my rescue inhaler usually doesn't do much good.  If I pick up on these early warning signs of asthma soon enough, I can prevent my asthma from getting worse. Usually with rest, and by breathing in warmer air, the lungs relax and the feeling of shortness of breath goes away.

     

     

     

    Chimney smoke: Smoke is another asthma trigger, and when there's smoke billowing from neighborhood chimneys this can make breathing very difficult, especially when this is coupled with cold air.

     

    My dad kept the house warm by burning wood, and when I used to go out and play football with my brothers, this caused me some major grief. Since I never wanted to spoil everyone's fun by not playing, the asthma stayed pretty active. Ideally, to avoid asthma caused by chimney smoke, homes that house asthmatics should be heated by other methods. Or, if there is no way to get rid of the wood furnace, not going outside may be the best solution, especially if the wind is blowing in your direction.

     

    Ideally, to avoid asthma caused by chimney smoke, homes that house asthmatics should be heated by other methods.  Or, if there is no way to get rid of the wood furnace, avoiding going outside may be the best solution, especially if the wind is blowing in your direction.

     

    Infections:  According to the asthma guidelines, viruses are one of the main culprits in triggering asthma.  Sinusitis is commonly linked to asthma especially in children.  Other illnesses that can eventually lead to asthma symptoms are tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis and pneumonia (you can read more here and, better yet, here). 

     

    Basically, if you or your asthmatic child have any of the following symptoms (not attributable to allergies), you should make a call to a doctor:

    • cold like symptoms
    • nasal congestion
    • runny nose
    • sneezing
    • sore throat
    • scratchy throat
    • swollen throat
    • sore throat
    • wheezing in throat
    • excessive sputum
    • colorful sputum
    • cough
    • painful cough 

     

  • Indoor allergens: When it's cold outside, we tend to spend more time indoors with the heat cranked up and windows shut. This increases our exposure to seasonal viruses, and it also increases our exposure to things we're allergic to, such as pets and dust mites.

     

    Accoding to our own Dr. Fred Little (Asthma triggers of winter and fall) the best way to avoid these triggers is to:

    • Know you allergies (have allergy testing done)
    • Remove pets from house
    • Or at least keep pets out of rooms where asthmatics sleep
    • Have exterminator assist with pest control
    • Cover mattresses and pillows with dust mite covers
    • Wash bedding regularly
    • Wash upholstered furniture regularly (or purchase vinyl or leather furniture)
    • Avoid wall to wall carpeting (rugs are better, no rugs are best)
    • Wash carpets or rugs regularly

    If you're a parent of an asthmatic child it is of utmost importance that you maintain good contact with your child's pediatrician, be vigilant to your or your child's early warning signs of asthma, and know your child's asthma triggers.  The same can be said for adult asthmatics.