MANY of those who have asthma will experience seasonal change or peaks and troughs in their symptoms. For some people with asthma, the winter is particularly problematic. The cold weather or simply being indoors and exposed more to house dust mites can trigger a flare, causing coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.
Asthma can flare at any stage in a person’s life. Increasing age can play a roll. As we get older, our lungs are less elastic, chest walls more rigid and muscles become weaker. All these things can exacerbate breathing problems. Other conditions such as heart and lung disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD) or heart failure may also cause symptoms that mimic asthma.
The atmosphere you live in plays a roll. Has this changed recently? Common triggers in winter months are house dust mites, moulds, fungal spores, and animal dander. Treatment involves firstly reducing exposure to the triggers. Carpets and blow heaters will harbour and circulate dust and spores and should be avoided.
Colds or viral illness can be a trigger. We become more susceptible to these with age and it may be necessary to temporarily increase asthma treatment during this time. Having an action plan in place can be very helpful at this time. This can be agreed between you and your doctor. Occasionally it may also involve having steroid tablets available to take if inhalers alone are not working.
It is worth having a thorough checkup with your doctor to assess your wheeze. As you had been symptom-free for many years, I would think a reassessment and investigation is appropriate to rule out other conditions and confirm that your symptoms are, in fact due, to asthma. Spirometry, a chest x-ray, ECG, bloods and full exam