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Asthma and Midwestern winters

Last Modified: 2/07/2020

Asthma Winter

This post was written by Heather Willison, MSN, FNP-CPPG – Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and mother to four cats.

It’s a beautiful winter afternoon, and the kids are chomping at the bit to go out and play in the snow. You are torn because you know that as soon as you head outside and breathe in that cold air, your chest will feel tight and you will want to run back inside to where it’s warm. This scenario is all too common during the winter months for those with asthma.

Asthma is a chronic lung condition during which the airways may become narrow due to swelling and inflammation, as well as increased mucous production. These narrowed airways make it difficult to breathe, and can result in coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. Patients often report feeling like they are breathing through a straw.

An important part of maintaining asthma control is identifying what might cause your asthma symptoms to rear their ugly head. There are many different triggers for asthma symptoms, including physical activity, stress, allergens, heat, humidity, smoke, viral and bacterial infections, and acid reflux. During the winter months, the biggest asthma trigger tends to be the dry, cold air. Unless you are able to fly south for the winter, you will need to learn how to live with asthma during the frigid Midwestern winters. 

Winter asthma survival tips
  • Before venturing out into the cold, cover your mouth and nose with a lightweight scarf to help warm the air you are breathing in. You can find microfiber, moisture-wicking scarves at sporting goods stores that offer excellent breathability, while protecting you from inhaling cold air that can literally take your breath away.
  • Consider staying indoors on days when the temperature is 10 degrees or below. If you must leave the house, refer to the previous tip.
  • If you have plans to be out in the cold for a prolonged period, whether you intend to shovel, throw snowballs or stand in line on Black Friday, using your rescue inhaler 10-15 minutes before heading outdoors can be of benefit. 
  • Exercise indoors when the weather turns cold. Many workout facilities and even indoor shopping malls offer walking tracks. If no indoor options are available to you, plan to perform your warm up exercises inside for 10-15 minutes before heading out, and refer again to the first tip.

Of course, regardless of the temperature outside, daily use of your asthma controller medication(s) is key to maintaining good asthma control. The team at PPG – Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology is here to offer excellent care should you need assistance this winter. We don’t want you (or your children) to miss out on making memories in the snow!


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