For those who suffer from pollen allergies, the winter can bring welcome relief from their annoying symptoms. But unfortunately, winter also brings its own challenges for people who suffer from asthma or are allergic to indoor allergens.
As the temperature drops, the risk of an asthma attack increases.
-Cold, dry air can irritate your airways, causing the muscles inside to tighten or spasm. Changes in weather and temperature can inflame airways and trigger asthma flares. For people with bronchial tubes that are already inflamed, these changes in weather can have a significant impact on breathing.
-Illnesses can lead to additional inflammation of the airways making it difficult to breathe for asthmatics. Colds, flu, and other viruses are more common in the winter and therefore increase the chances of breathing difficulties.
-Indoor allergies trigger asthma flares. A large percentage of people with asthma have allergies as an underlying trigger of their asthma symptoms. If you are allergic to dust mites, mold, or pet dander, increased time spent indoors during the colder months can contribute to asthma flares.
Tips for reducing your risk of an asthma attack during the winter months:
- Limit outdoor exercise. Exercise is very important for people with asthma because it strengthens their lung capacity and can help them breathe easier over time. But when temperatures are low, move your workouts inside.
- Wear a scarf when outside. Whether you’re running errands or going for a walk, a scarf that covers your neck and mouth can help protect your lungs and airways by warming the air before you breathe it in.
- Use humidifiers in your home to control the moisture in the dry winter air. But make sure you keep the humidity levels in your home below 50% as high humidity levels promote the growth of mold and dust mites – two common allergens associated with allergy and asthma symptoms. Also, make sure you keep the humidifier clean as it can be a breeding ground for bacteria and mold.
- Get a flu shot. The flu vaccine is your best defense against the flu. And though you can get a flu shot anytime in the winter, we suggest getting it no later than December 1st.
- Wash your hands often. Washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer can help keep winter illnesses at bay. And try to keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth!
- Control your exposure to indoor allergens like mold, dust, and pet dander if they trigger your asthma symptoms.
- Use a short-acting albuterol inhaler at the first sign of symptoms to keep asthma from worsening.
Managing Winter Allergies
Though we tend to associate spring with allergy season, the winter can also be a difficult time for people who suffer from allergies. Because homes can sit closed up for months, people allergic to dust, mold, and pet dander may notice their symptoms getting worse during the colder months.
Reducing allergens in your home:
- Keep humidity levels between 40-50 percent to inhibit the growth of mold and dust mites.
- Invest in wood or tile floors rather than carpet. Even with regular vacuuming, carpets trap allergens and moisture.
- Wash your sheets and pillowcases in hot water once a week to kill any dust mites that might be living on them.
- Use pillow and mattress covers to protect from dust mites if you notice you’re having a hard time breathing at night.
- Dust and vacuum your home frequently.
- Clean and replace filters in your heat and air systems.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom if you are allergic to pet dander.
See a board-certified allergist to identify your asthma and allergy triggers. The first step in managing your symptoms is an accurate diagnosis.
- Avoid your symptom triggers.
- Develop an Asthma Action Plan and follow it.
- Take all prescribed medications as directed, whether you are experiencing symptoms or not.
- See your allergist for regular follow-up visits to assess symptom control and adjust medications as needed.
Schedule your same-day or next day appointment with Center for Allergy and Asthma of Georgia today. Our team of board-certified allergy and asthma specialists will discuss your options and recommend an appropriate course of treatment. Contact us at (770) 727-3142 or visit us online to book your appointment.