One in every dozen Iowans has asthma and wintertime can be their worst time of the year, since just breathing cold air can trigger an asthma attack.

With the pandemic and the chilly weather keeping most of us indoors, exposure to triggers like pet dander and smoke can make matters worse. Allergist Dr. David Slade suggests a few ways to keep your asthma symptoms under control.

“If at all possible, try not to use or be around things like wood-burning stoves, even kerosene heaters or fireplaces, just to avoid the strong odors or chemicals they that they produce,” Dr. Slade says. “It’s also important to avoid things like irritating sprays, hairspray, indoor air fresheners.”

Slade says asthma sufferers and those around them can take some simple steps to make it easier to breathe.

“Ask your family members to try to limit their use of perfumes or anything with a strong scent,” he says. “The most important thing is that if you have asthma and you smoke, the best thing you can do is quit and ask people not to smoke around you.”

Just going outside and having the cold air hit your lungs could bring on an episode. If you’re not already wearing a face mask, it’s important to cover your nose and mouth with a scarf when you’re outdoors, Slade says, especially on very cold, windy days.

“If you’re thinking of fun things to do outside this winter, try to plan them when you’ll have the least exposure to your asthma triggers,” Slade says. “Keep an eye on the weather so that you can monitor your asthma by tracking days that symptoms most occur.”

Slade says to have a frank talk with your doctor to create a plan that keeps your symptoms under control and set up a routine that works best for you.