Q: I was recently diagnosed with asthma and was told winter was the worst season for symptoms. What triggers should I be aware of during this time of year?
A: Winter can be a wonderful season with the cooler temperatures, the expectation of snow, and some of the most meaningful holidays of the year…that is, unless you have asthma. Asthma is a respiratory illness of the lungs characterized by tightening of the smooth muscles around the airways, swelling inside the airways, and mucus production, all which can result in coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and/or shortness of breath.
If you have asthma, recognizing your triggers and managing them in the most optimal ways will increase your likelihood of having a healthy winter. Since physical exertion in cool dry air frequently causes exercise bronchospasm, it’s important to pretreat with asthma medications before heading outside and choose appropriate activities to limit chest symptoms.
Winter is also the season for viruses, a very common trigger for asthma, so taking simple precautions like good hand washing, avoiding people who are sick, and getting the flu vaccine can help aid in asthma control. For folks who celebrate Christmas with a live evergreen tree, be aware that accumulated mold in these trees can trigger nasal and chest symptoms. Any indoor allergens such as cockroaches, dust mites, and pets (cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, etc.) or irritants (strong perfumes, colognes, potpourri, scented candles) can also trigger asthma.
In short, avoid known triggers like exercising in cold temperatures, take maintenance medications as prescribed, get a flu shot, continue allergy shots, eat healthy, play, drink plenty of water, take daily vitamin supplements, and have a wonderful winter!
Susan Raschal, DO Board-Certified Allergist
Covenant Allergy and Asthma Care
Located in East Brainerd at 1350 Mackey Branch Drive