Have you noticed that a sudden change in weather can trigger your asthma symptoms? If so you’re not the only one. In a recent survey, 75% of people said that cold air can trigger asthma symptoms. Damp weather, thunderstorms and a change in temperature also trigger symptoms for some people.
Why can a change in weather increase your risk of asthma symptoms or an asthma attack?
People with asthma have airways that are very sensitive.
Cold or damp air can enter the airways and trigger them to go into spasm, causing asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest.
A sudden change in temperature can have the same effect - if you’re in a warm house with central heating and you step outside on a cold wintery day or you walk into an air-conditioned room on a hot day in summer, for example.
Thunderstorms can trigger serious asthma attacks in people with asthma, especially children and young adults. It’s not fully understood why this happens, but it’s thought that when the humidity is high, the windy conditions during a thunderstorm can cause high levels of pollen and mould spores to be swept up high into the air where the moisture breaks them into much smaller pieces. As the pollen and mould particles then settle back down, these smaller pieces of pollen and mould can be breathed into the smaller airways of the lungs where they irritate the airway and trigger asthma symptoms.
What’s the best way to reduce the risk of a change in weather affecting you?
The best way to avoid a change in weather triggering asthma symptoms is to manage your asthma well:
- Take your medication regularly exactly as prescribed
- Check with your GP or asthma nurse that you’re using your inhaler correctly
- Use a written asthma action plan and keep it where you can see it (on the fridge, for example)
- Go for regular asthma reviews
You can also try these practical tips.
If the weather’s cold and/or damp:
- Carry your reliever inhaler with you at all times and keep taking your regular preventer inhaler as prescribed by your doctor.
- If you need to use your inhaler more often than usual, or use more puffs, speak to your doctor about reviewing your medication.
- Keep warm and dry - wear gloves, a scarf and a hat, and carry an umbrella.
- Wrap a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth – this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in.
- Try breathing in through your nose instead of your mouth as your nose is designed to warm the air as you breathe it in.
- You can find some useful advice about exercising in cold weather here.
If a thunderstorm is forecast:
Last reviewed March 2015