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Jarrod Beachum, PA-C


Asthma is a condition in which your airways (bronchial tubes) will swell up and become inflamed. These airways become narrower, making breathing difficult and potentially can be life threatening. Asthma attacks can occur any time of the year, but winters seem to be more problematic for asthma sufferers. According to a 2014 study, hospital admissions for asthma increase during the winter months.

Cold air affects our lungs more because it is drier. Our lungs are designed to maintain a certain amount of moisture. Breathing in cold dry air dries out our mucous membranes, which is the lining of our mouth, nose, and respiratory tracts. A dry mucous membrane is an unhappy one, and leads to irritation and swelling. Cold air affects everyone, but asthma sufferers are even more affected by it, as well as those who continue to exercise outdoors during the winter.

Cold air also triggers histamine release in your airways, which is the same chemical produced during an asthma attack, causing wheezing and other asthma symptoms. Mucous is also increased with cold air intake, and becomes thicker and stickier than normal.

What can you do to prevent cold-induced asthma attacks? The first step is speaking with a provider to make sure your asthma is under control before the winter hits. We can develop an asthma plan that includes short-term and long-term medications. You can also prevent asthma attacks by avoiding the outdoors when it is very cold (below 10°F). Cover your mouth and nose when outdoors which can help warm the air before it goes into your lungs. Ensure you drink extra water to keep the mucous thin, avoid ill contacts, get your flu vaccine early, keep the house free of allergens, and wash your bedding weekly in hot water to reduce dust buildup.

If you are asthmatic and still want to exercise outdoors, you may benefit from using your inhaler 15-30 minutes before you exercise, opening up your airways. Always take your inhaler with you, warm up at least 10-15 minutes before exercise, and cover your mouth and face. Exercising during the warmer part of the day may also help.

What do you need to do if you have an attack? Take 2-6 puffs from your inhaler. If your symptoms aren’t severe but don’t get better, wait 20 minutes than take another dose (2-6 puffs). If they are severe or don’t improve with 2 doses, seek medical care.

With these tips, I hope we can all have an asthma-free winter holiday. If you have any questions, come see me at 45 Urgent Care.