A woman opening the door to the cold outside and wind blowing in

Forgetting My Winter Cough

Last updated: February 2022

Around Christmas, I got a cough. I did not think much of it at first, as I have had a cough for thirteen years now. But days went on and my cough got worse. It was not unbearable, but given a potential COVID exposure to someone in my household and that I had seen just a few people, enough that I was getting concerned.

I commented about it one day, to my mom, who replied, "Oh, this is how you always sound in winter."

...This is how I always sound in winter - pretty much, anyways.

I had forgotten about my winter asthma cough.

Variables on variables

Last year was really good for my asthma overall. And, given I forgot I have an annual winter cough, last winter must have been similarly good. I felt like last winter was marginally warmer than this winter has been so far, but I needed to dig into the temperature data because it can be hard to remember cold versus even colder, especially spending more time indoors and not walking to/from buses.

The average December temperature here in Winnipeg was -15.6°C in 2021, compared to the several degrees warmer -11°C average in 2020. 2019 was only slightly warmer than this past December, at -14.7°C.1

Unfortunately, I cannot find data for humidity or the temperatures that actually include the wind chill values, because that would probably give even more useful data for understanding the effects of the weather on my asthma in the winter. As I write this, it is currently -24°C, "feels like" -38°C," with a humidity of 63%. It would be interesting to know how humid (or dry) the air was when I was coughing more the last week and a half in December, and if there is a correlation there.

The variable I find the most interesting though is that I really have not been spending a lot of time outdoors, especially around the time I was coughing more. So, how does that work if I am not directly inhaling the super cold air? Is it some sort of air pressure situation where the cold/dry-ish-ness still gets to me when I am inside? I don't really know, but I am curious to see if I can find this data somewhere at some point and find out!

Asthma symptom perception and memory

It is always interesting to me when I have a situation like this, how quickly I seem to forget what my asthma is like, or how it can be. I have had a decade-plus of asthma-y winters of iffy breathing, and yet, one winter with minimal outdoor exposure and milder temperatures as 2020/2021 seemed to provide, I totally forget all about my normal winter asthma problems and cough until my mom had to remind me. The cough was nothing that a few days, a bit of extra inhaled steroid, and 48 hours of using my rescue inhaler every 4 hours didn't turn around super quickly but had I realized earlier what was happening, I could've likely turned it around a lot quicker, too!

I also find that I am on the whole, less bothered by my cough, even when it increases, than I am by shortness of breath/chest tightness. So, that could also be why I did not pick up on it until the point where I did start having more dyspnea blips along with the cough, too.

Remembering between seasons

While it is not funny at the time, I am amused by how often my asthma sneaks up on me like this for things I think should be able to predict--like the creeping dyspnea when I am using an empty Qvar inhaler for a few days and not getting my top up of inhaled steroids. Or when the weather changes and I don't realize that despite not being out in it much, that too, can be affecting my asthma. I mean, at least I think I should be able to predict these mini-flares... but that's in retrospect! And given weather varies significantly from year-to-year, it's not like I can just preemptively start scheduling google calendar alerts to myself...but that may be something to ponder!

Do you find you forget what your asthma is like in certain seasons from year to year, and have to re-remember all over again? Or is it just me? Is there a way you anticipate how seasonal changes will affect your asthma? I'd love to hear your experiences and solutions in the comments!

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