When the temperature drops, you probably spend extended periods inside, surrounded by an array of indoor triggers, including dust mites (which multiply when you turn up the heat), mold, pet dander, scented products, and chemicals.

It turns out the dead of winter can actually be tougher on the sensitive respiratory systems. Cold air is drier than warm air and it's the lack of moisture—not the temperature—that is the issue. In winter you're also exposed to more germs, which can exacerbate asthma. The good news is: the problem can be managed so your asthma stays under control all winter long. Your lungs and sinuses will thank you for being a germ buster and for taking your meds.

Here are a few simple, but important, things you can do to weather your asthma at this challenging time of year.

1. Take Charge of Indoor Allergens
Allergy proofing your home can go a long way toward reducing dust mites, mold, and pet dander. Removing rugs, clearing out clutter, keeping pets out of your bedroom, fixing leaks, and reducing humidity in the bathroom can all be effective.

It can also be helpful to vacuum with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air filter) regularly, and wash your bedding in hot water at least once a week. In addition, check your home's humidity to keep it to ideal levels (below 40 to 45 percent).

2. Steer Clear of Germs
Germs are especially abundant during the winter months. Fight back by practicing good hygiene to protect yourself—and remind your kids to do the same! Your best bet is avoid sick people. Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash your hands frequently—especially before eating and cooking. Also make sure to get your flu shot each year.

3. Avoid Smoke
Remember that where there's smoke, there could be asthma triggers. This means that lighting your fireplace, using a wood burning stove, or cooking with a gas stove can all spark your symptoms. Be sure to avoid using them, or else have such appliances properly vented, in order to reduce your risks. In addition, steer clear of second-hand smoke, which can aggravate asthma and can cause other negative health effects.

4. Minimize Stress
Delayed school openings; hazardous road conditions; snow that just won't stop. Winter can add to your juggling act and many find it a stressful time of year. Increased stress can lead to a flare up since it can cause your airways to tighten and worsen you asthma. There's nothing you can do about Mother Nature but you can take a deep breath and stop fretting over things you can't control as well as set limits and not take on more than you can handle. Practicing yoga, meditation, or other deep breathing exercises may help you to better manage your stress level.

5. Don't Leave Home Without Your Inhaler
When you head outside and the air is cold and dry, breathing it in can trigger your asthma. Protect yourself by covering your mouth with a scarf and taking air in through your nose, which filters and warms it before it reaches your lungs. A few puffs of the inhaler before heading outdoors can help prevent the problem.

6. Stay on Top of Your Asthma Control Medications
Many asthmatics rely on a combination of control medicines to manage their condition and fast-acting relief inhalers to handle flare ups. The same strategy you use in other seasons may still serve you well during the winter. But if you're finding that you need your fast-acting inhaler more frequently, or begin experiencing more of your asthma warning signs, talk to your doctor about increasing your doses or trying some different treatment approaches.

Update Your Asthma Action Plan

Having a solid asthma action plan in place is essential when it comes to managing your asthma, regardless of the time of year. Your plan should identify your triggers, direct you on how to take your asthma medication and when, alert you to your asthma warning signs, and tell you what to do in an emergency. Be sure to meet with doctor periodically to assess your plan's effectiveness and make any changes as needed.


"Home is Where the Asthma Triggers Are." National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NCLBI). US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/National Institutes of Health (NIH), winter 2010. Web. 7 January 2012.

"Managing Asthma During Winter." Asthma Foundation WA, asthmawa.org/au, n.d. Web. 7 January 2012.

"Why Are Allergies, Asthma Worse in the Winter?" FoxNews. Foxnews.com, 4 February 2009. Web. 7 January 2012.

"Winter Asthma Plan is Important." Institute for Good Medicine. Pennsylvania Medical Society, 26 January 2009. Web. 7 January 2012.