Dr Clare Morrison

Article by Dr Clare Morrison

What Triggers Asthma?

For many asthma sufferers, attacks happen more in the winter. This is because of cold weather – asthma attacks are often caused by colds or flu, which are more prevalent in the winter. As well as this, being indoors can exacerbate symptoms, due to mould and dust mites.

Asthma triggers

If you do suffer from asthma, it’s important you understand your triggers. When you inhale something that sets off your asthma, your airways – the tubes in your lungs that carry air – can become very tight and clogged up with mucus. Make sure you talk to your doctor to find out what your triggers are – he or she may suggest that you make a diary in order to document exactly what sets you off.

Triggers could include:

Pets – Having cats or dogs in your home could set off asthma – if so, make sure you keep all animals out of the bedroom as curbing allergy triggers when you sleep can make a big difference. If you have carpets in your house, you may want to think about changing them to wooden flooring, as pet hair can get caught up in the carpets and is hard to extract.

Cover bedding – If mites are a problem use mite-proof covers on the mattress box springs and pillows, which keep mites away overnight.

Dryness – It’s important to keep the house dry as mould doesn’t grow much when it’s cool and dry. However some doctors recommend using a humidifier, which puts water back into the air. Again, it depends what your triggers are, so perhaps speak to your GP for more information.

Stress – Try to avoid getting too stressed out if you suffer from asthma. Winter can be a difficult time, long trips to work in cold weather can take their toll. Yoga and/or meditation can help relax you.

Avoiding colds

In winter, and indeed during all times of the year, make sure you avoid family and friends who are ill, wash your hands to stop viruses from getting into your body when you touch your eyes, nose and mouth. You could even get a flu shot – if it’s right for you. This helps to protect you from catching the flu.

Avoiding cold air

In order to protect yourself from asthma flare-ups due to chilly weather, you can:

Cover your face – you can do this by wearing a winter face mask that covers the bottom half of your face, or by draping a scarf across your mouth and nose.

If you’re an exercise fan, just make sure you exercise indoors

If you suffer from asthma, it’s important that you take medicine as prescribed and liaise with your doctor about controlling your asthma during the cold winter months.

Make sure you discuss:

  • How to handle your asthma when you don’t have symptoms
  • What to do if you start to have symptoms, or if your symptoms change
  • What steps you should take if you can’t control your symptoms

Practical tips to reduce asthma

  • Always carry your inhaler with you – you can buy one here
  • Wrap up warm, wear gloves, a scarf and a hat, and remember to carry an umbrella
  • Keep across the weather forecast- thunderstorms for example, are likely to trigger asthma, as it’s thought that when humidity is high, windy conditions can cause high levels of pollen and mould spores to be swept up in the air, where moisture breaks them into much smaller pieces
  • Try breathing in through your nose instead of your mouth
  • Don’t smoke or be around others who smoke!
  • Change your clothes and have a shower when you’ve been outside to wash off pollen

We hope this article has been useful – if you have any more questions, please contact our friendly team.

Dr Clare Morrison
Dr Clare Morrison
Experienced General Practitioner in Hampshire since 1995, with particular interest in Nutrition, Obesity and Smoking Cessation.
Originally published September 29 2017, updated October 06 2018