Asthma in the cold

Cold weather is a major trigger for asthma symptoms. Here are five tips for keeping asthma at bay as the winter temperatures drop.

Cold weather can have a serious impact on the 5.4 million people with asthma in the UK. According to Asthma UK, three quarters of people with asthma say that cold air is a trigger for their symptoms and 90% reckon that having a cold or flu makes their asthma considerably worse.

Cher Piddock, a nurse for Asthma UK, says: "Hospital admissions for asthma traditionally peak during periods of particularly cold weather. This can be due to breathing cold air into the lungs, which can in turn trigger asthma, as well as picking up colds and flu.

"People whose asthma is well-controlled are more likely to be able to withstand the risks of winter months. You can help keep your asthma under control by making sure you have a regular asthma review with your doctor or asthma nurse and that you have a personal asthma action plan."

Five tips for preventing cold weather asthma symptoms

Asthma UK has this advice on how to control your asthma symptoms during the cold weather:

  1. Keep taking your regular preventer medicines as prescribed by your doctor.
  2. Keep your blue reliever inhaler with you at all times.
  3. If you find you are using your inhaler more often than usual, ask for a medication review.
  4. Wrap up well and wear a scarf over your nose and mouth – this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in. 
  5. Take extra care when exercising in cold weather. Warm up for 10-15 minutes and ask your GP if they suggest taking one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler before you start.

Asthma attacks in winter

With the onset of very cold weather, it's a good idea to make sure you and your friends and family know what to do if you have an asthma attack.

The key signs are:

  • coughing more than usual
  • getting short of breath
  • wheezing
  • feeling a tightness in your chest
  • having difficulty speaking in full sentences

Read more about what to do in an asthma attack.

You can find more information on this website about managing asthma.

If you have questions about any aspect of asthma, you can also call the Asthma UK helpline staffed by asthma nurse specialists, on 0300 222 5800. It's open from Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

Page last reviewed: 02/11/2015

Next review due: 02/11/2017


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