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How to Handle Winter Asthma Challenges

January 19, 2016
Winter Asthma

Many people experience increased asthma symptoms in the wintertime. The main triggers include mold, pet hair and dander, dust mites, fire from the fireplace, and cold air. Though it may seem impossible to avoid such commonplace culprits, there are preventative measures to help curb the probability of an asthma attack this winter.

Keeping your home clean should be a top priority for any asthma sufferer. Storing food in airtight containers, removing garbage and dirty dishes and keeping pets out of bedrooms can serve as beneficial steps to avoiding asthmatic winter challenges. Vacuuming regularly, covering mattresses and washing the bedding every week is also important.

Matthew Sadof, MD, a pediatrician at Baystate High Street Health Center in Springfield, recommends asthma-friendly cleaners such as vinegar, baking soda and castile soap. Additionally, avoid lighting indoor fireplaces and ensure your home is well ventilated to reduce the risk of mold growth and improve air quality. 

"Mold can be limited by ensuring that your living space has adequate ventilation. Specifically, bathroom fans should be used to keep mold and mildew from growing," says Dr. Sadof.

Experts from Baystate Urgent Care - Northampton state, while indoor asthma triggers are heightened during the winter, outside elements can result in issues, too. So much as stepping outside from a warm home can result in an asthma attack with the abrupt inhalation of cold air. A hypoallergenic scarf or neck warmer can help to combat this unavoidable trigger. 

It can be difficult to determine whether or not daily medicine for long-term asthma control is needed. 

"If you are coughing and wheezing and need to use your rescue medication more than twice a week, or if you wake up more than twice a month due to cough, or if you have to stop and slow down your activities due to cough and or shortness of breath, your asthma may not be well-controlled, and you may require a daily controller medication that stops the inflammation of the airways," said Dr. Sadof. 

Develop Asthma Action Plan

In the event that the rescue medication is not relieving asthmatic symptoms or you need to use your rescue inhaler for more than one day, it is advised to contact your physician regarding options to intensify your asthma care. Even when preventative measures are taken, acute asthma symptoms can develop unexpectedly.

Developing an "asthma action plan" allows you to plan your response to a flare-up. As each patient is different, it's important to know when medication is necessary to prevent relatively minor symptoms like throat clearing from escalating to a full-blown asthma attack. It's also important to think in advance about exactly which symptoms will signal a need for emergency medical care. An action plan allows you to organize a methodical approach to asthma that includes lifestyle choices and responses to mild and severe flare-ups.