During the winter months, cold, dry air can tighten airways and worsen breathing. Fortunately, taking some smart precautions can help keep adults and children with asthma breathing free. Follow these tips:
- Pull a neck gaiter, scarf or turtleneck up over your mouth and nose to warm the air you’re inhaling.
- When it’s very cold, avoid exercising outdoors—including shoveling snow.
- Be sure to change the filters on your heating system each year before the season starts.
- Indoor heating can dry the air and irritate your airways. Ask your doctor about using a room humidifier to increase the moisture. Ideally, you want to keep the humidity level in your home between 30 and 45 percent. When humidity is too high, it can lead to the growth of dust mites, mold and mildew. Clean the humidifier regularly and replace the water daily as a preventative. If possible, use distilled or demineralized water in your humidifier (minerals in tap water can encourage bacteria growth).
- Have someone dust and vacuum your home frequently to reduce allergens now that you're spending a lot of time indoors. Use a damp cloth to dust and employ a vacuum with a high efficiency (HEPA) filter to clean fabric-covered furniture and carpets.
- Don't use down comforters or pillows, and wash all bedding in hot water above 130°F once a week.
- Keep your entire home smoke-free. Cigarette, fireplace and candle smoke can travel from room to room, even through closed doors.
Other Winter Asthma Tips
Illness can worsen breathing, so remember to:
Keep these essentials in mind, and you'll breathe easy this winter.
“Ask the Expert: Winter Asthma,” Children’s Hospital Boston, Dec 2010.
Asthma Society of Canada
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology