Have you ever wondered why cold weather can trigger asthma? It is because cold air causes the muscles surrounding the airways to contract, making the airways narrow. For kids with asthma, that constriction can make breathing more difficult and make asthma attacks more likely. In addition, other health conditions like the flu and respiratory infections are more common during colder months, and those illnesses can make asthma symptoms worse.
If your child has asthma, you can take steps to keep them healthy all winter long.
Asthma management tips for winter
Move physical activity indoors
When the air outside is cold and dry, encourage kids to play games inside. See more tips for managing asthma during physical activity here.
Maintain your home heating system
The heater in your home 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.
Monitor your home 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. That is high enough to make breathing easier but low enough not to encourage asthma-triggering mold and mildew growth.
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 their hands frequently.
Get family flu shots
Having asthma does not make your child more susceptible to the flu but getting the flu can make asthma symptoms worse. Try to prevent this by getting a flu shot.
Get family COVID‑19 vaccines
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 their nose. Wearing a scarf or mask on the face will also help to warm and humidify 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 is 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. Share any changes to the Action Plan with everyone who participates in your child’s care, including teachers, babysitters and extended family members.
Get expert help managing your child's asthma through Children's Health℠ asthma programs.