Weathering Winter with Asthma, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Raynaud’s Disease

Take these precautions during the winter months to alleviate pain caused by the cold

Credit: M.V. Jantzen

Exercising in winter weather can trigger an asthma attack

Exercising in winter weather can trigger an asthma attack if precautions aren’t taken

Cold winter weather can exacerbate existing conditions, but a few simple precautions can lessen the negative effects

The biting cold of a Canadian winter can do a lot more than just nip at your nose, especially if you have asthma, rheumatoid arthritis or Raynaud’s disease. 

Asthma and Cold Weather

Exercising in cold air can bring on wheezing and shortness of breath in people with asthma. Simple strategies for minimizing the risk include wearing a scarf over the nose and mouth to help warm the air before it is breathed in and using prescribed asthma medications before going outside. Also, carry an emergency inhaler at all times. 

Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis in the Winter

Don’t leave yourself prone to a winter cold. (Image: Diego Diaz)

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis experience extra pain and stiffness in their joints in winter. It’s believed that the changes in barometric pressure associated with cold weather may put extra pressure on the joints, leading to extra pain.

To minimize the discomfort, dress in layers, keep your home and car well warmed, use an electric blanket, and exercise regularly to limber up stiff joints.

Cold Weather’s Effects on Raynaud’s Disease

Cold can also be a problem for people with Raynaud’s disease – a condition where the sudden narrowing of blood vessels reduces blood flow to the fingers and toes, turning them white to blue. When the blood flow returns, the skin turns red and then becomes painful.

To avoid symptoms, wear mittens (as opposed to gloves) and thermal socks to protect against cold and preserve heat.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.