Skip to content

Asthma in Winter Doesn’t Have to Get You Down

Make an Appointment

This information was reviewed and approved by Flavia Cecilia Lega Hoyte, MD (2/6/2023).


Athletes all over the world train amid severe winter weather conditions. Many competitive athletes have asthma, but they don’t let it get in the way of living a full life or pursuing their dreams.



National Jewish Health patient and professional freestyle skier Jake Cohn is one of those people. Cohn nearly died at birth due to severe asthma. As a child, Cohn worked with doctors in the National Jewish Health for Kids  Pediatrics Department to keep his asthma in control. As an adult, he now sees Dr. David Beuther, who gave him a personalized, proactive and preventive treatment plan for his asthma. With Dr. Beuther’s help, Cohn learned how to take his asthma seriously and manage his condition before it managed him.

"Never say you can't do something because of your asthma. Don't let it get you down." - Jake Cohn

How to Manage Your Asthma in the Winter

Athlete Jake Cohn offers the following tips to help you manage your asthma in the cold winter weather.

  • Temperature changes can be a shock to your lungs, so plan accordingly if you’re traveling from one climate to another.
  • Your lungs like warm, damp air — not cold, dry air. A humidifier in your home can make breathing more comfortable.
  • Try to exercise indoors if possible.
  • When going outside, wear a face mask and keep your face covered.
  • Breathe through your nose, not your mouth. The nasal passages warm the air, and the tiny hairs in your nose help to get rid of irritants.
  • Plan ahead for your prescription medication.
  • Ask your doctor and pharmacy about a 90-day supply of asthma medication. That way, you’ll always have enough on hand.
  • Avoid getting sick.
    • Wash your hands often.
    • Get enough sleep.
    • Eat healthy.
    • Exercise to keep your body strong.
  • Get a flu shot every year and prevent the spread of flu.
  • Take your regularly prescribed medications. This will help to prevent asthma flares.
  • If you can feel yourself getting sick, take some time out to nurse your body back to health.

Precautions to Prevent Asthma Attacks Triggered by Cold Weather

Many asthma patients shy away from outdoor exercise in the winter because it can trigger an asthma attack. If they take proper precautions, however, the vast majority of asthma patients should be able to enjoy winter activities, from sledding and skiing to a walk in the park. In other words, cold weather asthma may be common, but it can also be overcome.

"Any kind of vigorous exercise can be a trigger for an asthma attack, but the cold dry air of winter can be an especially potent trigger," said National Jewish Health pulmonologist David Beuther, MD.

Nonetheless, there are several steps people can take to reduce the chances of suffering an exercise-induced asthma attack in winter (or summer).

Pretreat 15-30 Minutes Before Going Outside

Pretreating with a short-acting rescue medication can open the airways and help prevent muscles around them from tightening up. Most of these medications last only 2–4 hours, so make sure you take the medication with you during exercise.

Wear a Scarf, Neck Gaiter or Mask Across Your Nose and Mouth 

This will help warm the cold air you're inhaling and decrease irritation. It will also help keep your airway lining moist.

"If you or your child does have an asthma attack, try and stay calm," said Dr. Beuther. "Take deep breaths while taking your prescribed rescue medication."

If these steps do not prevent an asthma attack, you should consult your doctor to see if there is something more you can do to better manage your asthma.

"Just about all asthma patients should be able to engage in physical activity, if their asthma is well managed, and they take a few simple precautions," said Dr. Beuther.

See an Asthma Specialist for the Best Care

Asthma specialists at National Jewish Health can help you live a better life. Why? Because they understand that asthma treatment isn’t about a one-size-fits-all approach. Because each person is different, so is his or her asthma.

Jake Cohn recommends the following when it comes to asthma care:

  • See an asthma specialist, as they are proactive not reactive; asthma care is more than just treating the symptoms. It’s about learning what causes them and how to prevent them in the future.
  • Once you find a doctor who is a good fit for you, stick with him or her so he or she can get to know you and your winter asthma patterns.
  • With the proper team and treatment on your side, you can achieve your cold weather asthma goals just like Jake Cohn and other competitive athletes.


Take Your Asthma Seriously

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can “tough it out” with your asthma. If you’re coughing all day long or are ignoring asthma symptoms like excessive congestion or mucus, you could be making your health worse. The longer you ignore symptoms, the harder they can be to treat.

For more than 100 years, National Jewish Health has been committed to finding new treatments and cures for diseases. Search our clinical trials.