View Full Version : Asthma in the winter

Jan. 12, 2010, 04:03 PM
Hi all,

So the asthma I've had for 17 years decided it would rear it's ugly head last month. I am now the owner of a home nebulizer machine as well as a Symbicort inhaler twice daily (long acting bronchodilator + steroid combo).

Last night I was awake at 2:30am doing a nebulizer treatment. I actually woke myself up coughing (it takes 4 alarm clocks to *maybe* wake me in the morning so that's saying a lot!).

My triggers seem to be cold weather, cigarette smoke, my parents' cats (although not my own), and dust. Plus I've tested highly allergic to trees, grass, weeds, dogs, cats and horses. Probably should not be near a barn according to that!

I have my horse at a self care facility and have gotten used to covering my nose/mouth when I'm there....but does anyone have any other tips?

Another thing I don't understand is I was at the doctor's office yesterday and did a spirometry test...which showed me at 113% predicted lung capacity for my age, height & weight. Anyone experience good "blow tests" yet still have attacks?

Thanks for any input!


Jan. 12, 2010, 04:30 PM
Yeah...I never show up anything in the Dr.s office- but riding in major cold I sound (and act) like I'm 90 and in bad shape.

If I remember I use inhalers...Plus try to wear a warming mask - at least till my glasses get sweaty/foggy.

If you don't have glasses these might help you out - go to


and look at their cold weather masks.

Jan. 12, 2010, 04:49 PM
Great link! I'm going to send that to my mother. She has cold weather asthma which makes doing horse chores very difficult. She wears a ski mask kind and those look much more comfortable.

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Jan. 12, 2010, 05:09 PM
This is why I have barely seen my horse in the past few weeks.

Two weeks ago, I had "that feeling," woke up the next AM with bronchitis, full blown. Got antibiotics, by the next evening I knew I had to start them. Coughing up lots, couldn't sleep through the night, painful chest constriction, the usual.

Finished antibiotics 2 days ago. Still tired as I am still not fully breathing in/out. And it is cold - not bitter cold, but evening is 25, with wind chills that make it lower. I went out Sunday during the "sunny" part of the day, lasted less than an hour, fully insulated, all I did was let him in the indoor and pick out his feet and scritch him, but I was out of breath from the cold and etc.

So, maybe tomorrow. But I'm not riding until I can breathe better. Not fair to him. And now I am at the point where I have the feeling I have done my all-too-common-get-an-asthmatic-response-to-the-respiratory-infection scenario...as much as I hate pred, a pred rush sounds pretty good right now.

Sorry, Ted!

Jan. 12, 2010, 05:43 PM
Yeah, I just have to remember to use my Albuterol inhaler before I go outside.

Other than that, I try to acclimate to the weather before I do anything strenuous. The barn is okay because I can tack up and such before riding, but I run into the biggest problems when I run. I usually take my puppy on a short walk to warm up before heading out on the run.

Jan. 12, 2010, 06:21 PM
there are days that i sleep in the mask.....

Jan. 12, 2010, 07:10 PM
Yeah, I have great heart, great lung capacity but when the cold hits me in the back of the shoulders I am scarily unable to breathe. I bought those chemical hand warmer packets so I can place them on my chest (haven't had to try it yet).

I have a saline nose spray and that helps a lot. Dryness seems to be very bad for me. Just dipping a finger in water and running it on the inside of my nose brings immediate relief if I don't have the spray.
I have considered microwaving a plastic bottle of water to hug when I am caught outside in the cold (waiting for the train for example).
Long steamy showers help a lot too.
Good luck.

Jan. 12, 2010, 07:18 PM
I have pretty serious asthma, but using drugs I am well under control. Some advice, go with Xopenx vice albuterol (if you have a good health plan) both inhaled and/or neb machine because it doesn't give you the "I just mainlined straight caffeine) feeling that Albuterol does. It doesn't leave the nasty taste either.

I bought a helmet cover with a "throat" wrap. I actually wind up covering my mouth with it when I ride. It not only helps keep the dust out (since we can't water when it's so cold) but it also helps warm the air into my lungs. Even a blaclava would help or a scarf, but I found this to be far less bulky.

Having a home neb machine will keep the costs of going to the ER down. My favorite drug combination is:

-Singulair, asamex for daily control
-Flovent and neb added when I'm sick

If you are using your inhaler more than once a day then you should go see a pulmonary doc to get put on a different set of meds.

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Jan. 12, 2010, 07:40 PM
another thumbs up for singulair and asthmanex...and waiting eagerly until www.weather.com says the lows will "only" be in the 20s!!

Jan. 12, 2010, 07:43 PM
Hot showers and just staying warm in general seem to help. Unfortunately, the Singulair didn't do a thing for me.

Christmas Eve, I was an hour away from home at my parents' house and ended up using my inhaler 4 times in 6 hours...then found a doc-in-the-box that was open and got a Medrol dosepak. Saw my regular doc and started on the Symbicort the day before I finished the Medrol.

Now, since I had such a good "blow test" yesterday, the doc wants me to cut down to just using the Symbicort at night for 2 weeks, then stop it. Then he wants another spirometry test.

He tells me if I'm using the albuterol inhaler more than twice a week I need to be on some sort of long term control med.

I'm starting to feel like a pulmonary guinea pig!

Jan. 12, 2010, 08:06 PM
I have severe asthma and found Advair500 to be the only long lasting med. that works for me. I have had asthma 40 yrs and finally moved to Fla to escape the NY cold, although the last 2 weeks here have been a not so funny joke! Bad asthma attacks kick your butt...afterwards everything hurts from struggling to breathe and you are exhausted and even a run of the mill cold sends you to the ER cause it blew into a full blown plague and went directly to your chest. Good luck with finding the right meds to control it.

Jan. 12, 2010, 08:42 PM
My asthma sounds just like yours, same triggers and same relievers.

Mine has been well controlled for most of my adult life, in fact I don't remember the last time I had regular attacks.

But is has reared its ugly head... I'm 24 weeks pregnant and the asthma has kicked my ass this winter, to the point where I dread going outside because the cold air is a killer.

Frankly I hate steroids and will only take them if I absolutely HAVE to. My doc did send me to the ER a few weeks ago, and I had to do the steroid thing much to my dismay, as oxygen deprivation to baby bump would be a very bad thing. Since then I've been on Pulmicort and albuterol for maintenance.

Seems cold weather, dehydration, and fatigue are major triggers so I try to avoid those things as best I can! The barn has become a big no-no due to the cold temps, and I struggle if I'm even out there for an hour. It sucks. :(

I take 2-3 showers a day if I have to, because the steam helps so much and it is the only thing that will quiet an attack.

Hope you are feeling better.... wish I had more advice for you! Do what you can to keep it under control, it can be a nasty thing!

Jan. 12, 2010, 09:08 PM
Singulair, Accolate or any of those didn't work at all for me either, but Advair has for several years now, so well I quit needing the rescue albuterol at all.

I would say you should see an allergy specialist and start allergy shots.
Why? Because allergies have a treshold, up to which you won't have symptoms and when over the top then you have them, asthma one of them.

If you can control most of your allergies eventually with the shots, then your ashtma symptoms will decrease.
Worth a try.

Remember that asthma attacks can kill, so take care.
I know several people that died from one, including my grandmother.

Jan. 12, 2010, 09:32 PM
I was previously on every medication listed above for winter asthma, even paid for advair myself out-of-pocket, since insurance didn't cover it. I didn't dare ride in the cold w/o my inhaler in my pocket. This winter I read about salt inhalers and decided to give it a try, its very inexpensive. I was skeptical, it sounded too good to be true. But within two days all my winter asthma was gone, and I still can't believe it. I haven't used any of my medications at all. Previously I would beg by doctor for old outdated advair samples that would get left at her office. Now all my stockpile of asthma meds are just sitting in the closet. I think the dry salt inhaler is nothing short of miraculous.


Jan. 12, 2010, 10:02 PM
..reduces the viscousity of mucus..
It makes mucus thicker? Huh, I thought that would clog it worse.
That's interesting. I need to find the contraindications before I try it.
I'm off to research.

Jan. 12, 2010, 11:51 PM
Bluey, I wish it would be that simple! I went through six years of allergy shots. (sorry I didn't include that in my OP.) The allergies are much better although the triggers such as the cold weather & smoke are really the worst.

Thanks for the idea though!

Jan. 13, 2010, 12:40 AM
I've found my people!!

I'm on allegra, flonase, and flovent for asthma and allergies. My asthma gets far worse in the cold and wind. I take albuterol before any hard exercise like running, but for some reason can ride without it.

My former trainer, the only other person I've known with allergies like mine, said to drink Odwalla Superfood. It was apparently such a shock to his system that his allergies and asthma really improved. Unfortunately, that worked out not so well for me with my food allergies, but it helped him be around all of the barn dust and grasses.

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Jan. 13, 2010, 12:45 AM
Well, for me, it's not allergies. Cigarette smoke, mold, respiratory illness can trigger, but not always. Cold does, not heat (I seem to do far better in the humidity of summer than the biting cold of winter). I really feel for everyone who has allergies in addition - that makes it far worse!!

Jan. 13, 2010, 02:17 AM
Advair is the only thing that works for me.

Jan. 13, 2010, 10:15 AM
Mucinex will also help - but works better for the nose than lungs IME.

Jan. 13, 2010, 11:53 AM
Try this!
Very, very important to stay very well hydrated before & after physical exertion in the cold.

But MOST IMPORTANT; need to prevent cold air from going into your lungs or minimizing cold air intake so......breathe thru you nose at all times outside AND warm your intake air by wearing a scarf around your nose/mouth to warm the air you're taking in. A neck gator, scarf, bandana all would work. Not too tight but enough to create a nice pocket of warm moist air around your mouth. Even a cheap face mask like the paper disposable ones. Altho' we know that if we are really exerting they don't cut it. It's the shock of cold that triggers an asthma attack as well as the dryness of the air.
Been there, done that!

Jan. 13, 2010, 02:10 PM
Aww...people who can relate to my breathing issues...

I came home from my in-laws over Christmas who are heavy smokers. I had bronchitis not even 24 hours later. I was dying..and dragged myself to the Urgent care. 2 doses of the zpack and I was hacking up the lungs cr@p. My inlaws don't understand that when they smoke..I can't breathe.

My BO has allergies ilke I do so we both are a mess. Hay cutting season neither of us are in the barn. The men..load the hay into the barn. We are in the house supervising.

I love riding in indoors but have to wear a dust mask. I am still trying to figure out how I can show and wear a dust mask.

Cold will cause my asthma to go haywire which is why in the winter I don't ride much, or exercise outside.

Jan. 15, 2010, 08:10 AM
I am a dry asthmatic so this is how my seasons go:

Spring: Worst season for me. I live where the northern trees and the southern trees converge so I am in h-e-double hockey sticks. I go on my heaviest doses. Singular/Asamex on top of allergy eye drops and one of the nose (AQ only please) allergy meds. I am positively miserable health wise, but love the temps, the weather and I am giddy about being outside, so I do what I need to. Humidity/Temps wise it's the best.

Summer: Meh. When it's muggy and hot, I can't breathe. It's like an elephant is on my chest. I have to keep my eye on the color codes for air because a couple of years ago I was moving cinder blocks during a code red day and 2 days later almost wound up admitted to the hospital. Before I work in the barn I take my inhaler.

Fall: Allergies (eyes) from tree leaves.

Winter: The cold dry air hurts, so I cover my mouth to help create a bit of warmth then I am okedokie. I always take my inhaler before I ride just in case.

The best I ever felt was living in San Diego. Unfortunately, my job is now here, so I suffer through. Riding actually helps quite a bit because it's one of the few places I am totally relaxed which helps with the breathing too.

I have found yoga really helps my asthma, and believe it or not so does going to the chiropractor. On more than one occasion when I couldn't breath after I saw her I could. Something about my rib cage shifting over.

Jan. 15, 2010, 09:10 AM
Ahhhh, my asthma family. We can relate sista's!! :yes:

If I know I'm going to be doing slightly more strenuous work at the barn when it's cold, I will take an albuterol hit before I get out of the car. I'll also wrap my nose and mouth in a scarf.

Best thing, though, is Pursed Lip Exhale Breathing. (I used to play trumpet, so caught onto this technique quickly.) I'll take in a breath, then tighten/purse my lips and slowly (but with effort) push the air out. Then relax and breath normally. Often I can head-off that stabbing that comes on before an attack.

Funny, but helpful side effect from that breathing technique: I've improved my breath control when I sing :D Go figure! :lol:

Ditto the hot, steamy showers or baths. I absolutely ADORE the Vapor Bath that you get in the baby aisle in the store. A goodly squirt in a hot tub, get in and close the shower curtain to contain it. Breathe deep and slow. Ahhhhhh :sleepy:

And lastly, for those night-time coughs --now DON'T laugh-- rub the bottom of your bare feet with Vicks Vap-O-Rub, put on socks and go to bed. For whatever reason, this old Southern remedy WORKS! :yes:

Jan. 15, 2010, 09:27 AM
I can also relate. I always felt like I was the only one.
I had a bad attack at the farm last year so at least they now really understand how bad it can be.
I use Advair and it's the only thing that works. I swell up some from it and doctors aren't sure why but I can breathe so I have to take the swelling. I do take nasonex and the Zyrtec equivalent. I'm allergic to everything environmental but too chicken to do shots. I also developed food allergies at 40! and ended up in ER by ambulance. I couldn't breathe!
Summer with high humidity is terrible and I have days I can hardly walk from my car to the front door! My mother made gators out of fleece material for the really cold weather and they help a lot. I wear the paper masks when grooming during shedding season or if my guy is particularly dirty.
I'm going to try some of the remedies listed and see if they help. Advair is soooo expensive that I beg the doctors for samples too.
People don't realize how hard it is to have asthma. You can't see it but certainly suffer from it.

Jan. 15, 2010, 02:08 PM
A variation on the pursed lips breathing:


And if you live in a humid climate and try the dry salt thing...good luck. Mine turned into really, really, really viscous salt water because it absorbed so much from the air.

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Jan. 17, 2010, 01:16 AM
This is a tricky one because if you're up and walking, how sick can you be? My issue with the bronchial problems is that if I don't stay upright, everything collects, and then getting it cleared just sucks all the energy out of you. Of course, when you're on oxygen deficit, and you're on antibiotics, and you're running a low grade fever, and hacking up, and you can't sleep through the night, well, amazing how it takes a while before you get your energy levels back up. Even though it is no longer as cold, I find myself out of breath very easily now (well, the infection is cleared up, but the asthmatic inflammation remains).

I do better in the warmth, but then, the emergency inhalers also don't work for me.

Jan. 17, 2010, 01:41 AM
I'll have to try ChocoMare's breathing technique. I usually try to calm my breathing by taking slow breaths in, slow breaths out...but that doesn't always work.

Still trying to figure out some triggers. I know the cold air is a problem for me but today it was about 50 degrees and I still had problems. Perhaps it was the weather change?

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Jan. 17, 2010, 02:47 AM
Well, dry can be problematic. But moist can also be an issue as then the amount of nasty stuff like mold increases. And if you've had an inflammatory episode, it won't go away just because it gets nicer. Do you know if you have other triggers?

Jan. 17, 2010, 10:44 PM
I don't have asthma, but I have quite a collection of allergies that make my life challenging. I had a thought for those of you who said a hot shower helped.

My husband bought me a facial steamer to try to help clear my sinuses. It essentially makes my nose clear for a while just like a hot shower does. I use it for ten minutes and it helps for a couple of hours.


Jan. 17, 2010, 11:05 PM
I gave myself allergy shots for 12 years and they helped tremendously.
After all those years, the allergist said we had done what we could and go on without them.
I first tested allergic to 72 of 75 substances, so it was bad.
Asthma on top of that and I had serious trouble, so much he reccomended I go on SI and quit working.:eek:
No way, I got relief with inhalers enough to keep going and the shots eventually reduced the symptoms threshold, so I am doing fine now just with Advair.

To learn to manage the bad days, it helps to use
a peak flow meter, that little plastic gadget that tells you how much, or little you can breathe.
If you are really getting low, take care and use the inhaler, before pushing thru and ending in the hospital, or dead.

My grandmother died of an ashtma attack at 44.:cry:

Jan. 18, 2010, 09:25 PM
Today i was teaching lesson in an indoor. Two horses were trotting around and my chest will filling up. I had to tell the girls to walk a bit.

I used my inhaler some.

I am hoping to hit the gym but exercising outside can't be done with this cold right now.

Jan. 18, 2010, 11:52 PM
For about 20 years, I used my regular albuterol inhaler many times a day...if I went anywhere without it (even leaving it behind in the car to go in a store), I would almost go into a little panic. When riding, I would always tell whoever I was riding with where I kept my inhaler, too, just in case I would need it.

However, Advair has changed my life. I've been on it for about three years now. I'm prescribed to take it twice a day, but I only take it once a day and I am fine. I don't think I've refilled my rescue inhaler since I've been on the Advair (although, now thinking about it, I guess I should because it's probably expired). I feel very fortunate that the Advair is effective. Riding and grooming, particularly, was always so difficult for me prior to using the Advair.

To speak to the OP, winter was always the most difficult time of year for me. Even now, I use a scarf or neck warmer (love the ones from LL Bean!) all the time. Old habits die hard, I guess. Now I'm so accustomed to them, I feel naked without one.

I feel for everyone struggling with asthma. It is such a difficult condition. Hope you all are doing well :)

Jan. 19, 2010, 08:55 AM
Advair comes in two strenghts.
I use the milder 100/50 and one puff twice a day, is all I need.
I have not used the rescue inhaler but maybe twice a year since, when before I had to use it several times a day.

I was wondering if Advair would quit working over time, but even after these many years, it is still just as effective.:cool:

All the other kinds that came before, even the ones thru nebulizers, I tried them all, but not one of them worked.:no:

Jan. 19, 2010, 10:20 AM
I can also relate. I always felt like I was the only one.
I had a bad attack at the farm last year so at least they now really understand how bad it can be.
I use Advair and it's the only thing that works. I swell up some from it and doctors aren't sure why but I can breathe so I have to take the swelling. I do take nasonex and the Zyrtec equivalent. I'm allergic to everything environmental but too chicken to do shots. I also developed food allergies at 40! and ended up in ER by ambulance. I couldn't breathe!
Summer with high humidity is terrible and I have days I can hardly walk from my car to the front door! My mother made gators out of fleece material for the really cold weather and they help a lot. I wear the paper masks when grooming during shedding season or if my guy is particularly dirty.
I'm going to try some of the remedies listed and see if they help. Advair is soooo expensive that I beg the doctors for samples too.
People don't realize how hard it is to have asthma. You can't see it but certainly suffer from it.

Do you have any other weird symptoms? The reason I ask is that I am from Ellicott City and had some of the same problems as you for years. Late onset allergies, asthma, the whole works. Finally after a very stressful year, came down with severe flu like symptoms and painful joints. It was Lyme Disease. Since being diagnosed and treated, which took many doctors and years, the allergy symptoms are almost completely gone. Just a thought. The Columbia, Ellicott City, Marriottsville area is a hotbed of lyme and ticks. Any by the way, if I ever had a bulls eye rash, don't recall seeing it.

Feb. 7, 2010, 09:38 PM
The best counter-offensive to asthma is a two-pronged attack:

First - immunotherapy!!! Be it shots or drops
- makes a huge difference.
Your lungs can fight off many irritations and allergens but reducing the ones they are most susceptible to should go a long way to keeping you breathing freely. Ten years later, I have no problem with dust, mold or dog hair.
Second - Advair! I still use the low dose 100/50 at half-dosage now (once a day) and can't recall the last time I reached for a rescue inhaler. (Singulair is bad for your liver, BTW)

Heck - I used to spend winter teaching in a moldy, dusty indoor and managed to keep my breath.

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Feb. 8, 2010, 02:35 AM
all of the meds have possible/probable negative side effects, including advair. But it beats not breathing!

DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"
Feb. 8, 2010, 06:25 PM
I must admit I am not crazy about inhaled corticosteroids - of course it beats straight oral prednisone! But it also beats not being able to breathe!