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Asthma in the winter

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  • Asthma in the winter

    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!


  • #2
    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.


    • #3
      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.


      • #4
        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!
        Last edited by DressageGeek "Ribbon Ho"; Jan. 12, 2010, 07:38 PM.
        a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues


        • #5
          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.
          Have YOU ever looked into the eyes of a rich white child who has just lost a jumping competition?


          • #6
            there are days that i sleep in the mask.....


            • #7
              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.


              • #8
                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.
                Nothing is as good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse. Sir Winston Churchill.


                • #9
                  another thumbs up for singulair and asthmanex...and waiting eagerly until www.weather.com says the lows will "only" be in the 20s!!
                  a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues


                  • Original Poster

                    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!


                    • #11
                      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.


                      • #12
                        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!
                        We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                        • #13
                          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.


                          • #14
                            Please Try A Dry Salt Inhaler

                            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.



                            • #15
                              ..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.


                              • Original Poster

                                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!


                                • #17
                                  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.


                                  • #18
                                    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!!
                                    a 501(c)3 organization helping 501(c)3 equine rescues


                                    • #19
                                      Advair is the only thing that works for me.


                                      • #20
                                        Mucinex will also help - but works better for the nose than lungs IME.