Dr Mark Rosenthal

MD MB ChB FRCP FRCPCH BSc

Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

also specialist in Food Allergies & Disorders of Sleep

A | A | A

T: 0207 351 8832

E: s.harvey@rbht.nhs.uk

A:The Royal Brompton Hospital, London, SW3 6NP

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Asthma can be very sensitive to environmental changes so it is common for symptoms to flare up when the seasons change. Some children have worse symptoms over the summer as a result of pollen allergies but for others asthma can get worse during the winter.

How Does Winter Affect Asthma?

How Does Winter Affect Asthma?

The main problem for children with asthma in the winter is the cold weather. Breathing in cold air can trigger asthma symptoms in many children. The effect can be particularly bad when the air is cold and dry, so wetter days tend to be a little easier. However, wet weather in winter can cause its own problems as it encourages mould to grow and release spores. Some children can react badly to these spores when they have asthma.

Children may also be exposed to some other potential triggers more often in winter because they are spending more time indoors in less ventilated rooms. Dust, pet dander and other potential triggers can all build up in our homes at this time of year.

Another common issue at this time of year is that colds and other infections tend to spread more easily in winter. Any infection that narrows the airways can make it easier for an asthma attack to occur.

Tips for Managing Asthma in Winter

It’s important to be aware of your child’s asthma triggers and how they can appear at different times of year. If winter asthma triggers are a problem for your child then there are some steps you can take to avoid them:

  • Keep your child inside if possible when the air is very cold and get them to wear a scarf across their nose and mouth if they do have to go out. This can warm up the air a little before it gets into the lungs.
  • Make sure that your child has the seasonal flu vaccine as it can reduce the chances of falling ill. Other steps you can take to prevent infections include avoiding people who are ill and making sure your child is washing his or her hands regularly.
  • Hoover and wash bedding regularly to prevent allergens such as pet dander and dust mites building up in your home.
  • If you have an open fire or stove in your home then make sure you’re using smokeless fuel and that your chimney has been swept as this can prevent smoke and pollutants from filling up the room.
  • Set up a humidifier and keep your home warm. You can’t control the weather outside but you can ensure that your child is breathing warm, humid air at home. A humidifier with a built in filter can also help to remove allergens from the room.

Avoiding asthma triggers can help to prevent attacks but the two most important steps that you should be taking year round are to ensure that your child is using their preventer inhaler as directed and that their reliever inhaler is always on hand in case of an attack. It’s always best to prevent asthma symptoms but you need to be ready if they are triggered.

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