Have you ever noticed that it's more difficult to breathe in the wintertime? That's because cold air causes your airways to contract. For kids with asthma, that constriction can make breathing much more difficult — and makes asthma attacks more likely. Meanwhile, other health conditions like the flu and respiratory infections are more common during colder months, and those can make asthma symptoms worse.
If your child suffers from asthma, you can take steps to keep her healthy and happy this season:
- Move physical activity indoors: Kids don't exactly hibernate, so you may need to get creative. Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a host of resources and ideas for helping your kids stay active even when they can't play outside.
- Maintain your home's heating system: Your home's heater goes unused for months at a time. The filters may contain dust, mold and other asthma triggers. Be sure to replace the filter to prevent blowing those triggers all over your home.
- Watch your home's temperature and humidity: Changes in temperature and humidity can trigger asthma on their own, while cold, dry air may also be a trigger. Talk to your child's doctor about using a humidifier to keep the humidity between 30 and 45 percent: high enough to make breathing easier, but low enough not to encourage growth of asthma-triggering mold and mildew.
- Stay away from illness: Along with the flu, people are more likely to develop sinus and upper respiratory infections during the winter, both of which can exacerbate asthma. Do your best to limit your family's exposure to people who might pass along harmful germs, and encourage your family to wash hands frequently.
- Get family flu shots: Having asthma doesn't make your child more susceptible to the flu, but getting the flu can make asthma symptoms worse. Check out Fast Facts: Asthma and the Flu for more tips on navigating flu season.
- Avoid fires: Smoke of any kind can trigger asthma, and it can also travel through your home. Don't use wood-burning stoves or fireplaces. If children with asthma must be in a room with a fire, they should sit as far away from the fire as possible.
- Use that nose: Your nose warms up air for your lungs, so encourage your child with asthma to breathe through her nose. Wearing a scarf or mask on the face will also help to warm and humidify the winter air.
- Reduce seasonal triggers: All those holiday decorations from the attic may be covered in dust, so clean them thoroughly with warm, soapy water. Throw away any decorations that have signs of mold, mildew or contact with pests.
- Follow your child's Asthma Action Plan: During the winter, it's especially important to follow your child's Asthma Action Plan. Talk to your child's doctor about whether your child should take a dose of maintenance medication before heading outside into the cold.
These Fast Facts are brought to you courtesy of the Health and Wellness Alliance for Children -- a group of community organizations working across multiple sectors to measurably improve the overall health and well-being of children in our region. Learn more about the Alliance, who they are and how they are working to improve community health.