Getting through October without an asthma flare up is a great feat, but preparing for old man winter is the next major challenge for people who have asthma. With bone-chilling outdoor air, bellowing furnaces and more indoor activities on the way (if you live in or near the upper half of the U.S., asthma triggers will be difficult to avoid. But preparation is crucial to getting through the winter season untarnished. The list of potential allergic and non-allergic triggers prevalent during the winter months is quite long. It includes: Cold air and weather changes- proven asthma triggers
Dry warm air- when indoor humidity levels are below 35% the upper and lower airways may get irritated
Dust mites- year round indoor triggers that affect the majority of asthma suffers
Furred pets- another year-round allergy trigger which may be more problematic during winter months
Common cold- difficult to avoid with the holidays coming
Flu syndrome- you can count on the flu triggering breathing problems for many people December through March
Christmas trees- whether live or artificial, more mold or dust will be circulating once the trees go up; Bah Humbug** Fragrances and fumes**- nothing like holiday pine cones, evergreen wreaths and potpourri to stir the pot of allergy triggers circulating in the home
Wood burning- another avoidable contributor to indoor pollution
Winterize your asthma management plan by following these ten tips: 1) Review dust mite control measures. Change the filters on your heating system monthly if able to do so. Get your furnace and humidifiers checked. Keep humidity levels between 35 to 50%.
2) Restrict all pets from the bedroom at all times. Any time they are in there they leave a little dander (flecks of hair and skin scale) behind. You would be shocked to see how much can accumulate over a short period of time.
3) When possible use your bathroom and kitchen fans to vent air out of the home in order to reduce fragrances and fumes from cosmetics and hygiene products and combusted particles from cooking.
- Check fireplace vents and burn wood infrequently. You increase indoor irritant triggers when burning wood. Never allow any tobacco smoking in your home at any time. Avoid third-hand smoke.
5 Conquer the urge to use air fresheners, scented candles, scented pine cones and Christmas wreaths which contribute to indoor air triggers.
Consider vacuuming your artificial Christmas tree before bringing it from storage. Avoid live Christmas trees if you have mold allergies.
Dress warmly before leaving your home during cold weather. Use a scarf or hood to cover your face and mouth in order to avoid the cold air directly entering your airways.
Follow up with your asthma care provider to see if there should be any adjustments to your maintenance / action plan. Some patients have medications stepped up during late fall and winter in order to prevent asthma flare ups.
Wash your hands before eating meals or snacks in order to avoid germs from sick relatives or visitors.
Get your flu vaccination to protect yourself and family from this potentially deadly virus.** Final Words** Winter can be fun especially when uninterrupted by allergy and infection related problems. Planning ahead may keep you in the green zone of asthma control and out of the hospital.
Board Certified Allergist and Asthma Specialist