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7 Steps to Keep Asthma in Check for Winter By Kerri Mackay

7 Steps to Keep Asthma in Check for Winter By Kerri Mackay
January 22, 2023

Fall is my favorite season. It’s a break for my lungs between the hot, humid summer and dry, subzero winter. I usually get lucky in terms of my asthma. The weather usually helps me to breathe better. But fall isn’t an easy season for everyone with asthma. Early fall is when new allergens are in the air, flu season begins, and kids are back in school sharing germs. It can be difficult to stay healthy through the fall and into the winter, and avoiding asthma triggers can be challenging. Take these steps to breathe easier during the season change.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms

Asthma symptoms can get worse depending on the weather and seasonal allergens. Some people with allergic asthma may find that their asthma and allergy symptoms get worse during the fall.

Ask your doctor if you need to change your medications to get through fall and winter more easily. He or she may recommend allergy medications or immunotherapy treatment to decrease your symptoms.

Also keep your rescue inhaler nearby in case you need it, just like you do during the three other seasons.

Be prepared for flu season

The flu can be more serious if you have asthma, even if it’s mild or well-managed. People with asthma are at risk of developing serious flu complications.

Talk to your doctor about your flu risk and any preventive measures you can take to avoid getting sick. You may also want to discuss any potential modifications to your treatment plan before the flu season is in full swing in your area.

Wash your hands a lot

Having a cold can make asthma symptoms worse due to symptoms like coughing and congestion. One of the other best ways to stay healthy this fall is to wash your hands often.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds:

  • before you prepare or eat foods
  • after caring for someone who’s sick
  • after using the restroom or changing a diaper
  • after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • at other times when your hands might get germs on them, like after touching animals or taking out the garbage

I also try to avoid crowded areas like stadiums and shopping malls when I can. (Hey, it’s still early enough to start holiday shopping online!)

Banish dust from your home

More time spent inside means more time spent with the allergens like dust mites, which are a common indoor asthma trigger.

Dust mites like the humid indoors and temperatures between 68 to 77°F (20 to 25°C). That’s the same environment that feels nice to us humans. They can trigger allergies like sneezing and runny nose as well as asthma symptoms like wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Learning how to combat dust mites can help reduce asthma symptoms. Here are some tips:

  • Vacuum regularly, ideally with a certified vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Use dust-proof pillow and mattress covers.
  • Wash bedding weekly at temperatures high enough to kill dust mites 130°F (54.4°C).
  • Try to avoid wall-to-wall carpeting and wash carpets in hot water when possible.
  • Reduce humidity to less than 50 percent using a dehumidifier.

Clean up after pets

Pet dander is another indoor allergen that can make asthma symptoms worse. These steps can help reduce symptoms:

  • Keep pets out of your bedroom.
  • Vacuum regularly using a double-walled filter or micro-filter bag.
  • Brush your pet outside frequently. Preferably not by you!
  • Remove carpets, which can trap allergens.
  • Use a HEPA air filter.

Clean up the yard

Mold is an outdoor fall allergen that can trigger asthma symptoms. It doesn’t die off with the first frost and tends to grow in piles of dead leaves. Keep your yard well-raked and wear a mask if you’re doing the cleaning.

Stay indoors when pollen counts are high

Ragweed pollen is another outdoor allergen that sometimes triggers asthma symptoms during the late summer and early fall. If you think pollen affects you, track pollen counts on your local news.

Try to stay indoors with the windows closed when pollen counts are high, especially between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to shower and change clothes when you come inside. This can help decrease your exposure to pollen attached to your hair and body.

Taking steps to avoid allergens can help you navigate the challenges of living with asthma in the fall. That way you can focus on the apple cider and pumpkin spice!

For more information on how to manage migraine, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.


NPS-ALL-NP-00538 MARCH 2022