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?