What Is Cold Induced Asthma?

If you're asthmatic, you may experience asthmatic symptoms during a specific season. If you experience these symptoms during the cold season, you have cold-induced asthma. There are a lot of aspects that you should know about cold-induced asthma.

This article will help you learn everything you need to know about cold-induced asthma. 

Have you considered clinical trials for Asthma?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Asthma, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

How are colds related to asthma?

When you breathe cold air, it dries your airways, tightening the muscles around them. This impairs the normal functioning of your airways and their ability to clear inhaled substances. This can lead to asthma symptoms. 

Cold air, especially during winter, is usually extra dry. That's also true with indoor air, especially when using a furnace. Like cold air, dry air can also irritate your airways and trigger asthma symptoms. 

Cold air will also most likely have you stay indoors more than usual. Therefore, you may be exposed to indoor asthma triggers, such as: 

  • Pet dander

  • Dust mite 

  • Certain cleaning products 

  • Mold and damp

  • Cigarette smoke 

Finally, cold air increases the production of mucus to remove unhealthy particles. However, if your body produces more mucus than usual, you may catch a cold or other infection, triggering asthma symptoms.  

Winter asthma 

Winter asthma refers to a cold-induced type of asthma that occurs in winter. Winter is usually cold, and the cold and dry air you breathe can trigger asthma symptoms. 

Symptoms of winter asthma

Winter asthma symptoms are usually triggered once a person is exposed to cold outdoor air or indoor triggers. In most cases, they typically go away when you go to a warmer place. Common symptoms that you may experience include: 

  • Shortness of breath

  • Coughing 

  • Chest pain 

  • Wheezing 

  • Tightness in the chest 

These symptoms vary from one person to the other. Some people may experience longer-lasting symptoms, while others may experience them for a short while.

Causes of winter asthma

The cold, dry winter air is the leading cause of winter asthma. Once exposed to this air, it causes inflammation of your lungs and triggers sudden narrowing of the airways. This is referred to as bronchospasm. This results in asthma symptoms such as chest tightness, shortness of breath, and wheezing. 

Here's a closer look at the causes of winter asthma. 

Exposure to outdoor climate 

Exposure to outdoor climate is a major cause of winter asthma. The cold weather makes your airways react, triggering asthma symptoms. Exercising in the cold outdoor air can cause worsened symptoms, especially if you're prone to exercise-induced asthma. 

Besides, the concentration level of outdoor pollutants that can trigger asthma symptoms can exacerbate asthma attacks. The concentration level for these pollutants varies based on humidity, wind, and factory production. Changes in the atmospheric nitrogen oxide and oxygen concentration can also exacerbate asthma symptoms. 

If your place doesn't get cold, your asthma symptoms may be triggered by pollen since it doesn't get away quickly. This may be worse for people who are at risk of pollen-induced asthma. 

Indoor environment

Your indoor environment can also trigger asthmatic symptoms. People tend to stay indoors during winter. This exposes them to indoor asthma triggers such as molds, animal danders, and dust mites. Turning on the furnace can exacerbate your symptoms since it stirs up asthma-inducing elements in the carpets, vents, and filters and circulates them inside your workplace or home. 

Secondhand smoke may trigger asthma symptoms. That's why you should insist that the smoker go outside to prevent triggering your asthma. 

Infections

Respiratory infections are the primary cause of asthma-related hospital admissions. 

Contagious respiratory infections are usually high during winter. They typically cause inflammation and increase the possibility of an asthma attack. 

Management and treatment 

There are different ways you can manage cold-induced asthma. You can choose to use quick-relief and long-term medication. 

Here's a closer look at these two types of medicine:

Quick-relief medication 

Quick-relief medications are fast-working asthma medications used to treat asthma symptom flare-ups. It would help if you took them as soon as you noticed asthma symptoms or had them around in case you needed them. 

Some of the quick-relief medications include:

Inhaled short-acting beta 2-agonists 

These medications relax your muscles in the airways once you start experiencing asthma symptoms. These medications will open your airways to allow airflow more efficiently. 

Some of the medications under this category include levalbuterol, albuterol, bronchodilators, and pirbuterol. 

Ipratropium 

This medication relaxes your airways and makes it easier to breathe. It's usually used for COPD or emphysema, but it's also suitable for asthma treatment. 

Intravenous or oral corticosteroids

Corticosteroids relieve inflamed airways to reduce severe asthma. These drugs have serious side effects when used for a long period. That's why they are best suited for short-term relief. 

Long-term medication

Long-term medications are daily dosages used to manage persistent asthma. Some of the long-term medications that you can use are as follows:

Inhaled corticosteroids

Inhaled corticosteroids¹ are inhaled into the lungs with an inhaler. They reduce inflammation to prevent asthma symptoms. It's generally safe if taken within the doctor's prescription. However, it can cause several side effects, such as mouth infections known as thrush.² If you take it for an extended period, you may put yourself at risk of osteoporosis.³  

Inhaled long-acting beta2-agonists 

These medications open the airways. They are not always used alone as long-term asthma medications. They are usually combined with inhaled corticosteroids. 

Combined inhalers

These are inhalers with a combination of long-acting beta-agonists and corticosteroids. They are suitable for managing asthma symptoms. 

Leukotriene modifiers

These medications help prevent the chain reaction that leads to airway inflammation. They are usually taken orally. 

Oral steroids

These are not quick-relief or long-term asthma medications since they are often taken seven to 14 days when you experience symptom flare-ups. They are usually provided when asthma control is not manageable by your regular asthma medications. You may take them as pills, liquids, or capsules. Some of the common medications under this category include:

  • Methylprednisolone 

  • Prednisone 

  • Prednisolone 

Other drugs you can use 

Your doctor might recommend other medicines if allergies or inflammations worsen your winter asthma. Some of these options include:

Allergy shots

These injections gradually minimize your immune system's reaction to specific allergens that trigger asthma symptoms. You will receive these shots once weekly for two to three months. You will then take them once monthly for three to five months.

Omalizumab

This drug prevents reactions to asthma triggers such as pollen or dust. You will get this injection once or twice monthly. 

How to prevent cold-induced asthma 

The best way to prevent a cold-induced asthma attack is by staying indoors during winter. However, you still must continue your regular activities regardless of the season. Here are a few tips that would help you survive through winter and minimize the chances of an asthma attack:

Always take your medications 

It's usually crucial to take your asthma meds as prescribed. This will prevent asthma flare-ups and any triggers, depending on the kind of medication you're using. 

Try to stay indoors as much as possible

If you can work from home, staying indoors during the winter is best. You should also avoid exercising during winter since this might exacerbate your chances of getting an asthma attack. If you have to go outside, do a warm-up for about five to ten minutes before leaving. You can engage in aerobic exercises, such as dancing. 

Keep warm

Wearing a warm scarf would help you keep off cold air around your mouth and nose. It also keeps you warm throughout the day. 

Other measures you can take to prevent cold-induced asthma include:

  • Installing a filter in your home heating system 

  • Dusting your house regularly 

  • Avoiding shaking hands or sharing items with people with respiratory infections

  • Drinking extra water during the cold season to thin your mucus and make it easy for the body to remove them

  • Getting flu vaccines as early as fall 

  • Washing your hand at all times to prevent influenza transmission, which can trigger an asthma attack

  • Washing your blankets and sheets with hot water to get rid of dust mites

  • Staying away from smokers in the house 

  • Eating healthy foods to keep your immune system strong

When to visit a doctor

Even though most people with asthma can manage their symptoms, some will need to seek medical attention. You should seek advice from a doctor when your medicine doesn't ease asthma symptoms or when you record peak flow measurements that are lower than the record peak flow. 

You should also seek emergency medical attention if you have trouble speaking and walking since you're out of your breath. You should also seek emergency medical care if your lips and fingernails turn blue. 

The lowdown

Cold weather is a significant asthma trigger, although the dryness of the air is more likely to exacerbate this condition. That's why most asthmatic people experience flare-ups during winter since the air around this time is cold and dry.

It's crucial to seek help from a doctor if you experience cold-induced asthma attacks. They will prescribe the proper medication, depending on the severity and frequency of your symptoms. It's also crucial to adopt relevant management measures to minimize the possibility of an attack. Once you adhere to your doctor's prescription and adopt the proper management measures, you’re more poised to manage asthma attacks.

Have you considered clinical trials for Asthma?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Asthma, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

Have you considered clinical trials for Asthma?

Do you want to know if there are any Asthma clinical trials you might be eligible for?
Have you taken medication for Asthma?
Have you been diagnosed with Asthma?

Join our email list

Want all the latest clinical trial and HealthMatch news in your inbox? We thought you might! Sign up below.