Winter is here and cold weather can mean more asthma flare ups for many. About 40 million Americans suffer from asthma. It can be triggered by many things including allergens, exercise, seasonal changes, smoking and cold weather.

Asthma attacks during the winter can be caused by a couple things. People often spend more time indoors during the winter which means they are inhaling allergens. A few indoor allergen triggers include dust, pet dander, dust mites and mold. Keeping these out of your home is an important step to minimizing asthma flare ups.

Another cause is the cold weather itself. For some asthmatics, breathing in cold air irritates already inflamed lungs and causes bronchospasms. When muscles surrounding the bronchial tubes constrict, they become narrow and make it difficult to breathe. Mucus in the lungs can also cause difficulty breathing, chest tightness and wheezing. Exercising indoors will minimize lung exposure to cold air and help keep you from getting sick.

If you must go outside, control your asthma by trying these:

-Breathe through your nose to warm the air before it gets to your lungs.

-Wear scarves around your nose and mouth to keep cold air out.

-Always keep your medications and inhalers on you, and take them as prescribed, even if you are not experiencing symptoms.

The flu and common colds can also cause asthma flare ups and attacks. To avoid getting the cold and flu, follow these simple steps.

-Do nasal washes twice daily; more if you are feeling congested

-Wash hands frequently

-Get a flu shot

Cold weather and flu season can be difficult for asthmatics. With the proper treatment plan and medication adjustments, you do not have to suffer. Talk with your asthma specialist to get your asthma action plan underway.