Asthma affects 5.4 million people in Britain and attacks vary from mild to severe. Winter affects asthma sufferers just as much as the summer months.  The lungs become inflamed causing the airway to narrow which make breathing difficult.  Changes in temperature, strong scents,  cigarette smoke, dust, pets, mould and flu colds trigger an asthma attack.

Symptoms vary depending on the severity of your condition when your airways narrow you may; wheeze, become short of breath, have chest pains and a cough. Inhalers relax the airways and relieve symptoms.  Everyone with the condition has a plan to identify triggers and how to avoid them.

Cold weather and flu colds trigger symptoms in winter as easily as pollen does in Summer.  At Christmas time we spend a lot of time indoors with scented candles and highly perfumed relatives which are also triggers.

Winter Asthma Triggers

Everyone is susceptible to catching chest infections in winter and asthma sufferers even more so. Cold damp air triggers asthma symptoms and causes the airways to become inflamed and narrow causing breathing difficulties.  Most asthma triggers occur inside the home including; mould, house dust, pet hairs, wood burners, dust mites and scented candles. Even indigestion after a big meal sometimes triggers an attack.

Cold air is dry and takes away the moisture from your airways causing them to become irritated and inflamed.  Also the amount of mucus you produce increases which makes you more susceptible to catching infections.  Avoid the cold by going inside when the temperature drops.

You must make sure you are prepared for the cold weather if you have asthma. Visit your doctor before the cold sets in to ensure that your asthma plan is up to date and that you are in good health.  Make sure that you have enough inhalers available just in case you are unable to see the doctor during the holidays.   Protect yourself from the flu by having the flu vaccination, if you are high risk your family members may also need vaccinating too.  

Avoiding Triggers

Prevention is much better than cure when dealing with asthma.  You can control triggers by; regularly hoovering the carpet, dusting, having an artificial Christmas tree, washing sheets and blankets regularly and keep pets out of the way. Avoid ill people as much as possible and drink plenty of fluids.  An open fire sounds cosy and romantic but not if you have asthma.  Wood smoke is as bad as cigarette smoke if you breathe it in.

If you plan to exercise or participate in a snowball fight make sure you take a puff of your inhaler ten to fifteen minutes beforehand so that your airways are open and clear.  Prevent yourself from breathing in cold air by covering your mouth with a scarf.

Being aware of your triggers means that you can avoid them more easily and hopefully prevent an asthma attack.  If your attack lasts longer and is more severe than usual you must visit a doctor or hospital to regulate your breathing.

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