Last month, extreme cold hit many parts of the United States. And winter is far from over. This is not good news if you suffer from asthma. When temperatures fall to extreme lows, just walking to your car or getting the mail can cause an asthma attack.
Here’s how it happens…
Cold weather changes your mucus blanket. This thin layer of mucus coats your entire respiratory system. The mucus blanket also rests on tiny hairs, called cilia. The mucus blanket is helpful, when working properly. It traps undesirable particles in the respiratory system. Then, the cilia help sweep out the particles.
But when you go outside in cold weather, your mucus blanket changes, especially if you have asthma. The cold air can stimulate excess mucus production. And thicker mucus means your respiratory system has a harder time sweeping particles out.
When you inhale cold air, mucus in your nose also becomes thicker and more profuse. That’s why your nose tends to run in cold weather.
Cold air also affects your lungs. In someone with asthma, cold air causes the lungs to release histamine. This, in turn, constricts the air passages and causes wheezing. It also stimulates the production of even more mucus.
So, if you have asthma, take precautions before going outside in the cold this winter. And take special care before exercising outdoors in the cold this winter. You may want to use your bronchodilator preventively before going outside. You should also wear a scarf in the winter. Make sure to cover your nose and mouth. This will help warm the air before it enters your lungs and may also help prevent a bronchospasm.
In addition, smoke is another asthma trigger. So if you’re asthmatic, don’t rely on a woodstove or fireplace to keep your home warm. But even if you don’t burn a fire in your own home, a neighbor’s fire can bother you. When smoke billows from a neighbor’s chimney, it can make breathing very difficult for an asthmatic. Especially when this is coupled with cold air.
On the flip side, spending all your time indoors during the winter can also wreak havoc on your asthma. The dry air can exacerbate your symptoms. Many asthmatics also suffer from dust mite allergies, so spending all your time inside a dusty house can cause a flair. If you begin to cough or wheeze inside, try boiling a pot of water in the kitchen when making dinner. Running a humidifier can also help. In addition, stay hydrated this winter by drinking plenty of herbal tea.
And remember, asthma management is not only about drugs. Stress can exacerbate your symptoms. And relaxation can improve them. Regular exercise also improves lung function and boosts your general sense of well-being. Hypnosis, acupuncture, and biofeedback can help as well.
I consider asthma one of the “12 Chronic Illnesses.” You can learn more about asthma and how to deal with it my special report called How to Beat the Dirty Dozen, free to subscribers of my monthly newsletter Insiders’ Cures. (If you’re not already a subscriber, you can get started today.)