For those who have asthma, winter can be a particularly challenging season.  The combination of increased exposure to indoor asthma triggers from prolonged time spent indoors and the cold, dry weather outside may make you wish you could hibernate until spring.  If you love winter sports, you may feel frustrated or disappointed when your asthma symptoms interfere with your participation.  Although avoiding triggers is the best way to keep your asthma under control, you should still be able to engage in the activities you love.  Here are some tips before you go out to play in that winter wonderland.

1. Make Sure You Warm Up First

Warming up before exercising is a good idea for all athletes, since it reduces the risk of injury by preparing the muscles for rigorous exertion.  For asthmatics, an extended warm-up period is especially important, as it gradually prepares the body for the increased heart rate and oxygen demand of the workout.  This can prevent bronchospasms from occurring for a period of time.

2. Warm the Air You Breath.

The cold, dry winter air is a major contributing factor to asthma attacks.  Covering your nose and mouth with a scarf or mask before heading outside will help trap heat and moisture.  You should also make a concerted effort to breath through your nose instead of your mouth, since the mucus membranes in your nasal passages are much more effective at increasing the humidity in the air you breathe.

3. Keep Your Inhaler Ready.

You should take your regular controlling medication every day, and use a fast-acting inhaler before exercising (15-30 minutes in advance).  Remember to talk to your doctor about all of your activities, and make sure you update your asthma action plan if you get involved in a new sport.  If you do start to experience symptoms, being able to use your inhaler quickly is critical, so make sure you bring it with you when you head outdoors.

America’s Allergist, Dr. Bill Lanting, wants you to be able to enjoy your life symptom-free.  Although there is no cure for asthma, it shouldn’t control what you can and cannot do.  There are even Olympic athletes who manage their asthma and still compete.  Don’t let asthma hold you back!

Further Reading:

http://acaai.org/asthma/exercise-induced-asthma-eib

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/why-do-so-many-winter-olympians-have-asthma/

http://www.nationaljewish.org/healthinfo/conditions/asthma/types/exercise-induced/cold-weather