9 tips to breathe easily and keep breathing issues in winter at bay!

Seasonal changes have a great impact on our overall well-being. If you are someone who is experiencing breathing problems in winter, follow these 9 tips.
View All Images breathing problems in winter
Shortness of breath can be a serious problem! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Aayushi Gupta Published: 31 Jan 2024, 09:00 pm IST
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Winter brings with it chilly air, dry conditions, and smog, exacerbating respiratory issues like lung irritation, colds, coughs, sore throats, and bronchitis. Additionally, some individuals face breathing problems in winter. Cold weather irritates the airways, leading to bronchospasm—a condition where the airways constrict, causing shortness of breath and discomfort. If you relate to these challenges, we have a few tips to manage this problem at home!

Why do breathing problems increase in winter?

Breathing problems can get worse during winter due to several factors. One significant contributor is the cold, dry air commonly associated with the winter months. Cold air can irritate the airways and cause them to constrict, particularly in individuals with conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This can make it harder to breathe and can lead to symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Above all, pollution, smog, and seasonal allergies also contribute to breathing issues during cold weather.

5 common respiratory problems that can cause breathing problems

During winter, several respiratory issues become more prevalent due to factors like cold air, indoor pollutants, and viral infections. Pulmonologist Dr Kutty Sharada Vinod tells Health Shots about the most common respiratory problems during this season are:

1. Influenza (Flu): The influenza virus spreads easily in colder months, causing symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, and body aches. In severe cases, it can lead to pneumonia or exacerbate existing respiratory conditions.

Woman coughing
Cold and flu can also cause breathing problems. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Common cold: Rhinoviruses thrive in cold weather, leading to the common cold. Symptoms include nasal congestion, a runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat, often causing breathing difficulties, especially in individuals with underlying respiratory conditions.

3. Asthma: Cold, dry air can trigger asthma attacks in susceptible individuals. Due to this, airway inflammation worsens, leading to coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.

4. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Cold air exacerbates COPD’s symptoms, causing increased coughing and shortness of breath, making breathing more challenging.

5. Pneumonia: Bacterial or viral pneumonia can develop following a respiratory infection like the flu or due to exposure to cold air. You may experience symptoms such as fever, coughing with mucus, chest pain, and difficulty breathing.

9 tips to manage breathing problems in winter

1. Steam inhalation

Steam inhalation is a simple yet effective way to relieve congestion and open up the airways. Dr Sharada says, “Breathing in warm, moist air can help loosen mucus and ease breathing difficulties. Adding essential oils such as eucalyptus or peppermint to the steam can provide additional benefits by clearing nasal passages and reducing inflammation.”

Steam inhalation for respiratory problems
Inhaling steam may give you quick relief from respiratory problems. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Keep your surroundings clean

Maintaining a clean indoor environment is crucial for reducing exposure to airborne pollutants and allergens that can aggravate respiratory symptoms. Regular dusting can help remove irritants, promoting better respiratory health.

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3. Nasal breathing

According to Dr Sharada, “Encouraging nasal breathing, particularly during physical activity or exposure to cold air, can help filter, warm, and humidify the air before it reaches the lungs.”

4. Air purifier

Investing in an air purifier can help remove airborne pollutants and allergens from indoor air, creating a cleaner and healthier environment for individuals with respiratory issues.

5. Quit smoking

Smoking is one of the leading causes of respiratory problems and can significantly impair lung function. Dr Sharada explains, “Quitting smoking, or avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke, is essential for protecting lung health and reducing the risk of developing chronic respiratory conditions.”

Quit smoking today! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

6. Breathing exercises

Practicing breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing, can help improve lung function and enhance respiratory muscle strength. These exercises focus on deep, slow breathing techniques that can increase lung capacity, reduce shortness of breath, and promote relaxation.

7. Use a humidifier

Cold, dry air in winter can cause respiratory irritation and exacerbate breathing problems. Using a humidifier to add moisture to the air can help alleviate dryness and soothe irritated airways. However, it’s essential to clean the humidifier regularly to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria, which can worsen respiratory symptoms.

8. Saltwater gargle

Gargling with salt water is a natural remedy that can help soothe a sore throat, reduce inflammation, and alleviate respiratory symptoms such as coughing and congestion. Saltwater has antimicrobial properties that can help kill bacteria and viruses in the throat and nasal passages, providing relief from respiratory infections.

9. Consume water-rich foods

Maintaining adequate hydration is essential for keeping respiratory mucous membranes moist and functioning properly. Dr Sharada recommends “Drinking plenty of water and consuming water-rich foods such as fruits and vegetables to help prevent dehydration and promote healthy lung function.” Additionally, staying hydrated can help thin mucus secretions, making it easier to expel them from the airways.

Consume water-rich fruits as well to stay hydrated. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Apart from these tips, wear a face mask, especially in a crowded place, to avoid the risk of getting a cold or flu. Keep your hands clean and avoid going to dusty places. If your symptoms get worse, be sure to visit your doctor.

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About the Author

Aayushi Gupta is a health writer with a special interest in trends related to diet, fitness, beauty and intimate health. With around 2 years of experience in the wellness industry, she is connected to leading experts and doctors to provide our readers with factually correct information. ...Read More

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