Wintertime Triggers, Part 1 of 3

“Oh the weather outside is frightful…”

Welcome to part one of a 3 part series about wintertime allergies and triggers. For those of you saying “now wait a minute I thought you only had to really worry about triggers during the Spring and Summer?!” well I’m about to burst your bubble. But there is a silver lining in this message because I’m going to tell you what to look out for and how to reduce if not eliminate the cause. This post is a little wordy but stick with it, there’s some good information throughout.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Speaking of frightful cold weather, you folks in the North have been seeing plenty of that in the past few weeks! Did you know that the cold weather itself is considered a formidable trigger? When you inhale a blast of cold air your airways respond by going into bronchospasm- a fancy word that means they contract and narrow. You can attribute that to the severe temperature difference between that cold air and the inside of your body. Now for the fix (which is actually quite simple): wear a scarf over your nose & mouth. When you breathe out through the cloth it catches moisture, when you breathe back in it warms the air and makes it moister. Now for those of you in the negative degree weather you might need more help than a little ol’ scarf. Luckily for you there is a heat exchanger mask that is specially designed to warm up that cold air (look for it in some sporting goods or medical supply stores).

Next up on the list is closely related to the cold weather: cold viruses and infections, which can trigger a major asthma event especially in young children. Chest tightness, wheezing, and other asthma symptoms usually won’t respond as quickly to asthma medications, and last longer when paired with a respiratory infection. This time of year also increases your chances of coming in contact with a virus/infection due to the increase of travel and family gatherings. The fix(es): You can either become a hermit during the holidays, or take the necessary precautions: get your flu vaccination if you haven’t already, wash your hands often and correctly (scrub well with warm water and soap for at least 15 seconds), and avoid touching your face (the point of entry for those nasty little germs). Also try to avoid those who are sick- something that can come in handy as an excuse if you’re trying to avoid your overbearing in-laws.

This next one is for those health conscious folks that are exercising outside. Now I’m not saying you should give up that head start on your New Year’s resolution, but be mindful of your asthma and how your body is responding to the cold, dry air on top of the strenuous activity. We’re going to go straight to the fix on this one because most of the cold air effects have already been covered. First off, pre-medicate yourself 15-30 minutes before beginning activities that can cause your asthma symptoms to worsen and warm up indoors. Talk to your doctor about what medication is right for you & be sure to take your medication as directed. Also keep your rescue medication with you. For those days that are particularly cold and frosty work-out indoors. If that sounds too boring for your tastes, try an indoor sport like ice skating or hockey. Next, wear a scarf or mask, and avoid running/jogging/walking along busy roads or where outdoor pollution can further irritate your symptoms.

Be sure to check back with us tomorrow for Part 2: triggers that are linked directly to the holidays (foods, scents, and all those pretty, shiny decorations).

Sources will be provided in Part 3.

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