Minimizing the influence of outdoor triggers (cold air, drafts, pollution, etc.) and reducing the level of exposure to indoor triggers may pave the way to good asthma control.
Here are eight tips on how to proceed:
Winter proof your home in order to reduce the impact of falling temperatures on your indoor environment. Drafts around windows and doors may cause the temperature in your home to drop and worsen your asthma. The drop in temperature in your home may trigger your thermostat to increase the output of your furnace which can dry out the air. This leads to the second tip.
2. Make sure you have adequate humidity in your home over winter months. If you have no central humidifier, you should consider getting a portable one. Humidity levels below 40 percent can excessively dry out your airways (upper and lower), resulting in more coughing and other asthma symptoms. But be careful not to increase the humidity too much because this may foster increased dust mite and mold growth.
3**. Change the filters** on your heating system each month if they are the disposable type. Annual maintenance of your heating and cooling system (and humidifier if you have one) is recommended to assure they are working properly and not emitting toxic particles.
4. Clean thick seasonal bedding materials (quilts, blankets and comforters) before putting them on your bed in order to reduce exposure to dust and other small particles associated with them.
5. Avoid plug-in air fresheners, scented candles, potpourri, incense, aerosol sprays and other fragrances. They may greatly contribute to the indoor particle triggers that can worsen asthma control. They may smell nice, but they can irritate the lining of hypersensitive lungs (in other words lungs of the asthmatic).
Maintain a smoke free home and try to avoid or minimize wood burning. Ash from a cigarette, even when smoking is limited to when the asthmatic is not home, may lead to third hand smoke exposure.
7. Keep dogs, cats or other pets that have fur away from the bedrooms and family room at all times. The accumulation of dander in carpets, sofas, beds and pillows becomes more of a problem over time than the presence of the actual pet.
Have your action plan updated (you do have one don’t you?) just in case your doctor wants to make changes.
Don’t let the winter spoil your fun because of loss of asthma control. Although asthma cannot be cured, it can most often be controlled, which means you get to feel and breathe well throughout the winter.
Board Certified Allergist and Asthma Specialist