With cold winter air, asthma sufferers typically see a rise in symptoms and attacks. Healthy Housing Specialist Grace Cole explains, “cold air is much dryer than warm air, and that cold air can irritate lungs, cause more mucus production, and restrict airways in people with asthma, which may lead to more flare-ups.” Our Healthy Housing Specialists have been working with families to reduce these attacks and promote a healthy home. Cole has these 5 tips* to help you reduce your attacks this cold Michigan winter. You can always call our office at (616)241-3300 for more information and programming questions.
1. Reduce indoor allergens
Replace your furnace filter every three months, but especially at the beginning of winter when your furnace use is about to increase. You can also run an air purifier reduce allergens, “as we spend more time indoors, air purifiers are a great product for people with asthma,” says Cole. “Air purifiers use fans and filters to suck in unfiltered air and push out purified air, which may filter out dust, dust mites, mold spores and other allergens, depending on the air purifier you choose. I’d advise against any air purifier that uses ionization, as those have been shown to trigger asthma in some people. I’d recommend an air purifier with a HEPA grade filter.” To reduce dander, keep pets out of bedrooms and try to vacuum at least once a week with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter.
2. Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf or mask
Wearing a scarf or mask when you’re outside can protect you from the cold air, which can trigger symptoms. Masks can also protect you from getting exposed to the cold, flu, and COVID which can worsen asthma symptoms. According to Yale Medicine**, medical experts are worrying about a potential “tripledemic,” because of the high rates of COVID, RSV, and flu cases. Thomas Murray, MD, PhD It’s important to practice what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls “respiratory etiquette,” Dr. Murray says. “That means coughing into a tissue and disposing of it immediately in the garbage.”
3. Use a humidifier if dry air is an asthma trigger
A humidifier may help open your airways to prevent those cold-weather related flare-ups. Cole explains, “the CDC recommends homes have a humidity level between 30-50%, which humidifiers and dehumidifiers can help with. However, it’s important to note that humidifiers do not work for everyone, so I’d advise speaking with your doctor before purchasing one.” If your humidifier does not have a humidity gage, be sure to unplug and [take a break] from using if condensation begins to form on windows and/or walls.
4. Follow your AAP and keep a journal
Ideally, you have developed an Asthma Action Plan with your provider to follow in the winter months and beyond. If you do not have an asthma action plan, it’s important to speak to your care provider to formulate one. Allergy testing is another important factor in determining what will trigger asthma symptoms. If you’ve never had allergy testing or are unable to do so, we recommend keeping a journal of your symptoms, and making note of which triggers make your asthma worse.
5. Call to see if you qualify for our programs that improve air quality
We are proudly offering a new program in conjunction with Priority Health to deliver housing hazard mitigation and medical management of asthma symptoms to families. Participating families can get helpful information about how to reduce asthma triggers in their homes, as well as receive supplies like air purifiers, dehumidifiers, and other supplies as needed. Our Ready by Five program can also help families with children under the age of 5 with asthma triggers as well as accidental injury hazards and lead. Cole says, “we take a family-centered approach to developing goals that work well for your family.” You can also get more information about managing asthma here.
To see if you qualify for our programs or to take a free home environmental hazards assessment, call our office at (616) 241-3300.
*The information provided on the site is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for professional medical advice. We recommend that readers consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if they’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.