For the majority of people, exercise can induce asthma giving spasm like symptoms, wheezing, breathlessness and coughing. However, physical exercise is important to help produce carbon dioxide and so people with asthma should do some form of exercise. Due to a fear of having an attack most people avoid it. This leads to a vicious circle of poor fitness levels and more asthma symptoms.
For more detailed information on correct breathing during exercise, refer again to chapter five.
Weather is certainly a trigger but the cause is hyperventilation. If a person with bronchospasm hyperventilates in Africa, then they will have asthma. It doesn’t matter where you live, the question is this: are you big breathing? Australia has a beautiful climate, but yet the incidence of asthma is high, indicating that warm weather does not have a profound affect.
Weather types and changes are a frequent trigger of asthma. People whose asthma is triggered by weather generally experience greater symptoms on wet, damp days. Ireland is especially prone to wet weather and so a lot of asthmatics are affected.
It is quite possible that damp and foggy weather involving a drop of atmospheric pressure results in a greater loss of carbon dioxide from the body due to the pressure difference. It is very common for people to wake up on a wet day feeling miserable, drained of energy with increased symptoms and a blocked stuffy nose.
Other explanations of how damp days increase symptoms may be the tendency to remain indoors and therefore be exposed to greater concentrations of dust mites which can be a trigger for many people. Wet days also result in a greater amount of moulds.
When I started practising breath retraining I experienced a period of weeks during which I felt good and then I woke up feeling terrible on other days. There was a direct relationship between the weather and my symptoms. I also knew that when I lived in Sweden and Australia, my symptoms decreased somewhat.
Weather continued to be a trigger for me for a number of months and sometimes I resigned myself to the fact that my symptoms would be worse on a damp day. Over time however, as my control pause continued to increase, damp weather as a trigger decreased. Now damp weather has very little effect on me.
Another trigger is a drop in temperature. For some people this may be as slight as a decrease of a couple of degrees. Changes in temperatures can act as a shock to the body and can contribute to hyperventilation. One way to reduce this is to consciously control breathing as you enter a decreased temperature. For example, if you are entering a cold room, practise reduced breathing. Make sure that you do not overbreathe.
You may have noticed that when people jump into a swimming pool, river or sea, they will start to hyperventilate if the water is cold. The cold water is a stress which increases breathing. If you are about to swim or take a cold shower, immerse yourself very gradually. Start by immersing your feet for about ten seconds, then let the water up to your knees for another ten seconds, then your waistline. At this point it is helpful to splash water onto your chest a number of times before immersing fully. Healthy people will be far better able to tolerate colder water than unhealthy people. A cold shower is very beneficial but only when you are already healthy.
Cold air is known to be a trigger. For example, the sport with the greatest incidence of asthma is cross-country skiing. This may be caused by mouth-breathing excessively dry cold air. The airways are a warm moist environment and therefore it is important that the air inhaled meets this condition. New research, as discussed by Professor Jonathan Brostoff in his book, Asthma, The Complete Guide, indicates that it may not be inhaling cold air which causes symptoms but instead the effect of cold air on the face. This would indicate that a shock is produced from the face being exposed to cold air. To avoid this shock, wear a hat or scarf and keep your face warm. Continuous breathing through the nose will also condition the air better and maintain more correct carbon dioxide levels. More than likely, triggers from cold air are caused by both thermal shock and hypersensitive airways which are further irritated by cold dry air.
Windy days are another factor. Trying to breathe on a windy day is like trying to breathe with a pillow pressed over your face and this can be experienced by both asthmatics and non-asthmatics alike. For people with asthma, this may increase their apprehension and therefore create a slight panic affect. Of course, this would increase breathing, resulting in increased symptoms.
Generally, to minimise the effects from weather wear a hat or scarf while in cold places and reduce your breathing to avoid hyperventilation induced by thermal shock of any kind.