Post-Diwali many people with asthma have experienced their symptoms getting worse due to the rise in air pollution. Even before they are fully out of it, winter has knocked on the door.
Winter is all about jackets and sweaters, cosy blankets, bonfires, hot tea or coffee, soups, and other hot foodstuffs.
Apart from the fun part, winters can be a nightmare for people suffering from asthma. As we know asthma can be triggered by several factors, and exposure to cold air plays an important role. The cold and dry air in winter can trigger the symptoms of asthma in some people.
This type of asthma is known as intrinsic asthma. Intrinsic asthma is a type of asthma in which a person experiences asthma symptoms when exposed to factors like cold air, smoke, respiratory tract infection, stress, emotional status (anxiety, laughter, or crying) and more.
How do winters affect kids with asthma?
Children have weak immunity due to their less exposure to microbes and a poor diet when compared to adults. This makes kids more susceptible to colds and coughs. When kids with asthma catch a cold or cough, their asthma symptoms may get worse.
Elders would follow precautions to prevent themselves from catching a cold, but that is not the case with children. Also, giving medicines to children is a hectic thing. They would make 100 reasons not to take medicines. So managing their condition becomes tougher.
Factors provoking asthma symptoms, especially during winter
Blocked nose or nasal congestion: When a person has a blocked nose, it becomes difficult for them to breathe. In asthmatic people, this blocked nose may sometimes trigger asthma symptoms like cough, wheezing and shortness of breath.
During sleep, our airways relax, leaving a lesser space for air to pass. Now people who are having a blocked nose will find it even more difficult to breathe leading to sleepless nights or difficult sleep.
Poor immunity: During winters our immunity becomes weak. With a weaker immunity, our body becomes prone to various infections. In winter, the common cold, throat infection, and cough tend to be very common. It affects people of all age groups, among which children are at the highest risk of catching infections due to their poor immunity. Respiratory conditions like sinusitis, asthma and bronchitis may also worsen during winter.
Cough: The main reasons most people to get cough during winter are cold air and an increased risk of catching infections due to poor immunity. The type of cough that most people experience is a dry cough.
Tips to prevent and manage asthma symptoms
Immunity is nothing but our ability to fight infections and diseases.
As immunity can be weakened during winter and people become more prone to respiratory tract infections, improving our immunity could be the solution to combat asthma symptoms.
Here are some tips that can help people to improve their immunity that may help them control their asthma symptoms.
Cold air can make the airways constrict (narrow) making it harder to breathe. Going for a walk or doing yoga or some exercises can help you stay warm. This may also help to improve lung function and capacity.
Breathe through your nose:
It is always good to breathe through the nose than the mouth.
Our nose has tiny hair and mucus that will prevent dust, allergens and microbes from reaching the lungs. It warms the air we breathe. So when we breathe from our nose, even the cold air gets warmed up before reaching the lungs. But when we breathe through our mouth, the dust, germs and allergens don't get filtered and it enters our respiratory tract. Also, the air doesn't get warmed up. Hence, cold air reaches our airways making them shrink. When our airways shrink, the air doesn't pass through them easily, making it difficult to breathe.
Keep the air moist:
Using a humidifier can help to keep the air moist. Some people even add a few essential oils to it for a good aroma.
Drink herbal tea:
The immune-building and antioxidant properties of lemon are well-known. Drinking lemon tea with honey or a mixture of lemon water and honey can help to reduce the chances of infections and also help in improving immunity.
Chamomile tea is known for its anti-inflammatory, sleep-inducing and calming properties. Drinking Chamomile tea before bedtime can help people with asthma to get a good sleep.
Ginger tea is known for its aroma, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Adding ginger to your normal tea may help to keep airways open and reduce sore throat and cough.
You can also drink some warm fluids like soups, warm water or kadhas to reduce the swelling of the airways.
Including these natural ingredients in your diet may also work towards improving immunity so one can be ready to fight against infections and control asthma symptoms.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Herbs like tulsi, ginger, garlic, lemon, honey, ashwagandha, turmeric,
Turmeric milk: Turmeric shows anti-inflammatory and immune building properties that can help combat asthma symptoms.
Saline nasal spray
Improve your immunity by doing physical activity. It is good to practice some breathing exercises to improve your lung health. It may help to improve your lung functioning.
- Hyrkäs-Palmu H, Ikäheimo TM, Laatikainen T, Jousilahti P, Jaakkola MS, Jaakkola JJK. Cold weather increases respiratory symptoms and functional disability especially among patients with asthma and allergic rhinitis. Sci Rep. 2018 Jul 4;8(1):10131. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-28466-y. PMID: 29973669; PMCID: PMC6031646.