Tips for the Cold Air Trigger


I know the weather’s gotten pretty bad in the rest of the country when my Florida children have to wear coats to school, although I do live about as far north as you can go and still be in the Sunshine State. Since we’ve just come out of an arctic front, and my area is poised on the verge of another cold wave, now’s a good time to talk about the cold air trigger.

Temperature changes of all kinds can challenge people with asthma. Something about stepping into the cold winter air after the warmth of a well-heated home can get those bronchospasms started, and ditto for the switch between air conditioning and the hot humidity of an August afternoon. Plenty of asthmatics won’t go into a full-on flare simply by stepping outside (although some do), but many will at least start coughing if they, for example, exercise strenuously on a really cold day.

My kid is a case in point. AG normally doesn’t flare badly in cold air unless she’s exercising really hard. She can make it through basketball practice on an outside court on a 55-degree day okay, but sprinting on the track in the same weather would probably bring on the albuterol.

You can mostly avoid or at least reduce this trigger during winter. Some suggestions:

1. Exercise indoors.
This one’s sort of obvious. If you usually jog for a mile or two around your neighborhood, try moving your workout indoors instead during the very coldest months.

2. Exercise less strenuously.
Just can’t stomach the monotony of a workout DVD or gym equipment? You could, instead, step your activity level down on the more frigid days by walking instead of running.

2. Use a scarf outdoors.
You can move inside or switch to walking, but what if you want to go skiing? And it’s not really feasible to keep any child, asthmatic or not, from playing outside in the snow. Or so I hear.

Keeping a scarf loosely wrapped around the nose and mouth will warm up the air you or your kid breathes in during winter sports or play.

3. Consider pre-treating for cold-induced flares.
Talk to your doctor about using a bronchodilator 30 minutes before exercising or playing outside. This quick step prevents cold-air flares for plenty of people.

4. Pass up the humidifier.
Pulmonologists (including my daughter’s) don’t usually recommend humidifiers to warm and moisturize the air inside. Since the devices increase humidity, they also increase the chance of dust mites and mold, two big problems for most asthma patients. Check out what National Jewish has to say.

How do you avoid or reduce the cold air trigger?

692 responses to “Tips for the Cold Air Trigger”

  1. MC says:

    I’m not a scarf person and never have been. However, because my family loves to ski, my mom has devised solutions, which over the years have become more liked by me. I never liked wearing stuff over my face till last winter when I learned the hard way that 5 minute walk from class to the cafeteria in 7F degree weather would leave me hardly able to breathe. I started wearing a fleece neck warmer/gator for skiing over my nose and mouth every time I went outside and found it really helped. And it stayed up better over my nose and mouth than most scarves do.

    Lots of people on campus wished they had one, as I was the only one whose face wasn’t frozen but was nice and cozy. :) I’m looking at the under armour one this winter and hoping that it wicks moisture better though… And that it doesn’t fog up my glasses (my current one doesn’t if I place it right).

  2. Amy says:

    Good tip. Thanks!

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