Cold weather and asthma

Are your asthma symptoms worse in cold weather?

Asthma affects over 5.4 million people in the UK, with 1 child in 11 affected. Asthma is a common, long-term condition which affects the lungs. People with asthma have airways (or breathing tubes) that are more sensitive and can become inflamed, narrowed, and make extra mucus on exposure to certain triggers. This can lead to asthma symptoms, including cough, wheeze, tightness in the chest and difficulty in breathing. 

Does cold weather affect those living with asthma? 

Yes! Cold weather is a common asthma trigger, making colder months a challenging and potentially dangerous time of the year for many people living with asthma. Changes in weather and fluctuating temperatures are known to inflame airways and trigger asthma flare-ups.   

Why is my asthma worse in cold weather?  

Everyone’s asthma triggers are different. But those living with asthma will often find their asthma symptoms get worse when there is colder weather. 

Dry, cold air:

Cold and especially dry air can irritate your airways and trigger asthma symptoms, making it difficult to breathe. If cold, dry air affects your asthma, you can reduce your airway’s exposure to cold, including:    

  • Wear a scarf, buff or mask to cover your mouth and nose, which helps add moisture and heat the air that you breathe in when you go outside or exercise on cold days.   
  • Take your reliever inhaler before you leave your house or go out into the cold and before exercising outdoors in cold weather.   

Cold and flus:

When the weather becomes colder, there is a likelihood that colds and flus are making the rounds at work, school and home. Cold and flu infections can spread very easily, and having a cold, flu, or other viral infection may trigger asthma symptoms. Therefore, keeping fit and healthy, avoiding contact with those who are unwell and getting regular flu vaccines, are recommended. 

Spending more time indoors:

On average, we spend 90% of our time indoors throughout the year, even more when the weather gets colder. Unfortunately, indoor environments are often poorly ventilated, causing humidity to rise and creating ideal conditions for mould and house dust mites to thrive. We are also a nation of pet lovers, with our pets often living indoors and dispersing allergens around the home.   

Therefore, when the weather is colder and we spend more time indoors, those living with asthma could be at risk of an asthma flare-up if their symptoms are triggered by dust, mould, or pet dander.

It’s important to note that there are many triggers for asthma symptoms and attacks. Therefore, it is crucial to determine your triggers – there may be more than one.   

Common asthma triggers include:  




  • Weather changes 
  • Irritants, e.g., perfume 
  • Indoor air quality 
  • Second hand smoke / vaping 
  • House dust mites 
  • Animals and pets 
  • Pollen 
  • Mould and fungi 
  • Food 
  • Cold / viral infection 
  • Smoking 
  • Hormones 
  • Sexual activity 
  • Alcohol 
  • Exercise 
  • Medications and recreational drugs 
  • Occupation  
  • Stress and anxiety 
  • Emotions e.g., laughing etc. 

How to recognise if your asthma is getting worse?  

People living with allergies and asthma need to be aware that their asthma attacks can be very severe and come on very quickly, especially when they are exposed to their trigger allergen.   

Worsening symptoms of asthma can include;  

  • Return of symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, tightness of the chest
  • Difficulty breathing, especially during exercise  
  • Starting to wake at night with asthma symptoms  
  • Symptoms interfering with the usual day-to-day activities  
  • Reduced peak flow measurements   
  • If you need to use your reliever inhaler more than three times a week   

If these symptoms start to develop, it is important to arrange an appointment to see your GP or nurse for an asthma review.  

URGENT if the following occur   

  • If you are finding it difficult to breathe, walk or talk    
  • The reliever inhaler is not helping, or you need it more than every four hours    
  • Wheezing a lot, very tight chest or coughing a lot   
  • You are becoming exhausted by the effort of breathing  
  • You need to seek immediate medical advice and call 999 for an ambulance 

Treating Asthma: Medication  

Everyone with asthma should have an asthma action plan, especially if they need to use an inhaler.  

Asthma Action Plan  

There are many types of inhalers containing measured doses of different medications to treat asthma. The two main types of inhalers are called preventers and relievers. There are also combination inhalers which contain both a long-acting reliever and a steroid preventer. You must be shown how to correctly use the type of inhaler prescribed for you. 

Reliever inhalers 

Reliever inhalers are used as and when asthma symptoms are experienced. Everyone with asthma needs to have a reliever inhaler prescribed. They work by relaxing the muscles in the airways so that you can breathe more easily when you have asthma symptoms. However, if you use this type of inhaler regularly (more than 3 times a week), it means your asthma is not controlled, and you need to seek advice from your Asthma Nurse or GP. 

Preventer inhalers 

Preventer inhalers contain a low-dose corticosteroid medicine which works by reducing swelling and inflammation in the airways. They should be taken as prescribed daily, even when you have no symptoms, to build up a protective effect and help prevent asthma symptoms. 


If you have an MDI or metered dose inhaler, using a spacer (a holding chamber that fits on the end of the inhaler) is an effective way of ensuring your asthma medication reaches the right place with the correct dose. The use of a spacer is recommended as part of your asthma management. This is because the press and breathe actions are important for effectively using an inhaler.  

Some asthma devices, such as a breath-activated inhaler or dry powder device, do not need to be used through a spacer device. 

Asthma medication is only effective if taken correctly and as prescribed. When you see your GP, Asthma Nurse or Pharmacist, ask for a review of your inhaler technique (even if you have been using your inhaler for a long time, it may only be as effective if your inhaler technique is good).   

Please seek medical advice if you have any questions or concerns about your asthma.   

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