Breathing Problems? Triggers in Winters and strategies to fight it.

Breathing Problems? Triggers in Winters and strategies to fight it.

Winter is the season to enjoy warm food and festivities. However, the onset of winter brings lots of anxiety and stress for patients who suffer from respiratory diseases. Research shows that cold weather increases the intensity of respiratory symptoms in asthma and allergic rhinitis patients and leads to functional disability and discomfort.

What triggers breathing problems during winter? And what strategies can you adopt to fight breathing problems during winter? Read the post to know more!

What triggers breathing problems during winter?

Winter causes various changes in the atmosphere. It causes a drop in temperature and leads to cold dry air. Cold dry air is the main culprit that causes various breathing and respiratory problems during winter. The cold dry air lacks moisture and irritates the lungs and airways. Restricted airways cause wheezing and shortness of breath.

In normal conditions, mucous secretion protects and keeps our nasal cavity moist, however, in winters, when our body is attacked by viruses and bacteria, there is an increase in mucous secretion. This clogs the airways and causes coughing, wheezing and breathing problems.

What triggers breathing problems during winter

What are the factors that can worsen breathing problems during winter?

Apart from cold dry air, here are some other factors that can cause or worsen breathing problems during winter.

  • Air pollution:
    Air pollution is one of the prime factors that cause or worsen breathing problems like asthma, COPD etc. Polluted air contains various harmful substances like carbon monoxide, lead and ozone. When you breathe in this polluted air, it irritates the eyes, nose and respiratory ways and results in breathing problems. As per research, air pollution can induce the onset of acute asthma and may worsen chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] symptoms. If you have preexisting conditions, it is important to check for air quality in your area and then decide to step out for work.
  • Smoke, fumes and chemicals:
    Smoke, fumes and chemicals are another important factor that causes breathing problems during winter. If you smoke or get exposed to secondary smoke regularly, it causes inflammation and swelling in the airways and results in increased breathing problems.
    Smoke fumes and chemicals are another important factor that causes breathing problems
  • Seasonal allergies:
    Seasonal allergies are another common cause of breathing problems during winter. Allergies increase the chance of asthma and cause wheezing and other respiratory symptoms.
  • Cold and flu:
    The onset of winter is commonly known as flu season. During winter, there is an increased occurrence of cough, cold and flu. These common respiratory infections increase the chances of breathing problems during winter.
  • Lower body immunity:
    In winter, the lack of sunlight and reduced physical activity lowers the body's immunity and results in frequent respiratory infections and causes or worsens breathing problems during winter.
  • Pre-existing chronic respiratory conditions:
    Pre-existing chronic respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD symptoms often become worse during winter. Exposure to cold dry air acts as a trigger and causes acute flare-ups or exacerbation of asthma and COPD.

What types of respiratory diseases or breathing problems are more prevalent during winter?

Here are some common breathing and respiratory problems that get worse during winter.

  • Asthma: Asthma is one of the most common respiratory diseases that are caused or worsen during winter. Cold dry air causes restricted airways and results in breathing problems like wheezing.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD): Like asthma, COPD symptoms also get worse by exposure to cold dry air. Research shows that winter causes an acute exacerbation of COPD symptoms and there is an increased rate of hospitalization during winter.
  • Bronchitis: Bronchitis is another common respiratory disease that causes or worsens during winter. Bronchitis causes severe cough, wheezing and pain in the chest. Bronchitis symptoms improve within 1-2 weeks with antibiotic treatment.
  • Pneumonia: Pneumonia is another respiratory disease that gets worse during winter.
  • Influenza and flu symptoms also get worse during winter.

What are the strategies to fight breathing troubles during winter?

Here are some effective ways to fight breathing troubles during winter.

Cover yourself

Winter is the time to bundle up and cover yourself when going outside. It is important to protect yourself from cold dry air to avoid respiratory infections and breathing troubles. Wrap a scarf around the neck and wear a fitted mask to cover your nose and mouth. Scarves and other protective layers act as a barrier and do not allow the cold dry air to pass into the lungs and respiratory airways. It keeps you safe and protected during winter.

Breathe through nose

Next is a simple yet effective way to protect yourself from cold dry air. Avoid breathing from your mouth, instead, breathe through your nose only. The nose has a better temperature regulation mechanism than the mouth. It makes the air moist and helps to prevent the ill effects on your lungs.

Hydrate yourself

Maintaining a good level of hydration is key to keeping your respiratory mucus membrane moist and reducing the dryness caused by dry cold air. You can drink warm drinks like honey water and green tea to maintain good hydration level in your body.

Avoid Vigorous physical activity or exercise outside during winter

Winter causes drops in temperature and the breeze of cold air. If you are prone to respiratory diseases or already suffering from breathing problems like asthma and COPD, then it is advised to not stay outside for longer or perform vigorous physical activities during winter.

Take your medication regularly

If you are already suffering from any pre-existing respiratory conditions, it is important to take your prescribed medication regularly. Missing out on medications will increase the chances of worsening breathing problems and may cause other complications too.

Vaccination (Pneumonia vaccine, flu vaccine)

Vaccinations are another great way to boost immunity against various respiratory infections. Flu vaccine and pneumonia vaccines are two common vaccines that help in preventing respiratory infections effectively.

Bonus tips

  • Wash your hands frequently to get rid of germs.
  • Avoid going outside when pollen count or air pollution level is high.
  • Manage indoor air pollutants too. Use air filtration systems or air purifiers to reduce indoor air pollutants.
  • Use a humidifier to keep air quality moist.
  • Eat a healthy and nutritious diet to keep your immune system healthy.

These are some of the ways in which you can manage your breathing problems during winter. While many of the respiratory illnesses are not curable, proper management, medications and remembering simple strategies like the ones mentioned above can make winters bearable.