Asthma UK community forum
9,865 members16,628 posts

Cold weather and inhalers

You may think I'm mad, but I'm going somewhere thats going to be about -30 C. I've phoned GSK to ask if MDIs will work in that extreme cold, and all they could say is that they have data showing that below 2 C the quality of the drugs are not affected, but the proppellant may not work effectively, so presumably the drug may not be administered particularly well into lungs. But thats at 2 C, and I'm going to -30 C.

Any one have any idea if MDIs will work? Or, has anyone got a contact for AstraZeneca to see if turbohalers will work better? Their website is not very helpful at contact details for patients. (GSK were fantastic though, by the way.)

Obviously, I'll keep at least a couple of ventolins next to my body, so they wont get too cold, and should be able to be used pretty much immiediately, maybe after a quick hand-warm. But I cant keep spares/ Seretides warm the whole time! Is there any danger of the drug going irrevesibly 'bad' when kept cold for a couple of weeks? GSK think theres not, but I'm not totally convinced as that data was for 2 C.

Also, are there any particular drugs that might help prevent a minus 30 degree related asthma splatt? I think I'll try and get my GP to stock me up before I go on some add-on meds, (currently only on Ventolin and Seretide 250). Any advice on what might be good to add for cold-weather protection?? Oh, this is so crazy.

I know its kind of unlikely that a board of mostly brittle asthmatics will have direct experience of venturing into extreme colds, but anyone got any advice? Or just want to tell me I'm crazy? Thanks a lot, and big hugs (of the non squashing kind) to anyone who needs them at the moment. xx

21 Replies

Can't help with the inhaler question (although I'm sure it says something about temperature on my turbohalers).

I find the best thing to do in the cold is to make sure I have something nice and thick and warm like a scarf round my mouth. I have a couple of really nice jackets and cardigans which have a collar which comes up to my nose which are very useful for me as they are thicker than scarves and they stay up (not sure if I'm allowed to give brand names). I find the barrier makes sure that the air is warmer when it is entering my body and doesn't aggravate my lungs as much. It is also useful from going to and from extreeme temperatures i.e. inside to outside or vice versa which can set me off.

Hope this helps a bit.



Hi C

The AstraZeneca telephone number is 0800 7830 033




hi C, I've taken my MDIs to temps of -25 deg C, plus wind chill, and I found that if you kept them under all your clothes near your skin so they stay warm, then whipped them out and squirted quickly, all was well! But if you let them get down below freezing the propellant seems to seize up. In practice that means keep them on your person, and inside your clothing, you can't leave them in your bag, or tent, or wherever if that's going to go down below freezing.

Hope that makes sense!



When I went to Germany - I left a spare reliever & preventer in my suitcase -

when I got there the inhalers were freezing from being in the aeroplane storage.

They didn't work at first but they worked once they were warm again.



I did lots of skiing back in the day (before i moved to england) and was up in the mountain about 5 times a week. Temperature affects me, especially with lots of physical activities (sometimes we were forced to hike up the mountain while carrying our skis, not very plesant). As has been said already, just keep your inhalers under your clothes, near your body becdause then they keep warm. How many ventolins are you bringing anyway? You said you were going to keep a couple of them next to your body. Where are you going?


Hello C,

To add to the info from others...

High Temperature can denature drugs etc but don't think low temp will irreprably damage the drugs. It may still work after it warms up thaws out?? ( perhaps someone could pop a nearly empty one in the freezer and see what happens!)

Get a puffa pouch to keep it in - it is a neoprene carry pouch with a neck loop - will keep it handy and safe stuffed inside your clothes.

I was in Poland many years ago and it was below freezing all the time (Over new year) - my inhaler worked - very well! Though it would have been in a pocket.

My spare inhalers have been fine in the hold of a Boeing 747- some must have travelled 24,000 miles between UK, Ascension & Falklands!

Where are you off to? Arctic, Antarctica ?? (Very Jelous if it is Antarctica!)

Make sure you take your preventers and have a prototpl written up - eg when to up preventers if you start using lots of ventolin.

Anyway, Good luck.




Errr, you're mad!

Just kidding.

When I did Duke of Edinburgh in Scotland (this is going back a long time - about 14 years) I did find that an inhaler (MDI) that was left out in the 'porch' of my tent overnight refused to work in the morning. I found that the quickest way of heating them up a bit when they were cold was to take the metal cannister out and put it under my clothes in my armpit.

I have a feeling that we were told at the time that dry powder inhalers (eg turbohalers, accuhalers) were more reliable at low temperatures.



Thanks a lot for all your replies guys, very much appreciated.

Apparantly neoprene facemasks are the fashion at minus 30, so hopefully that will help. I cant imagine how painful it could be to breathe in that air - asthma or no asthma!

I'll call AstraZeneca in the morning - thanks a lot Kathy. If they dont know that their stuff is any better in extreme cold, I reckon I can risk the MDIs - thanks EJ. Really useful to know they're OK at -25, that's a lot closer to -30 than 2 is!

I've been given a load of pred as well, so hopefully that will prevent anything horrible. I'm heading to some pretty remote places...

It had never occured to me that airplane baggage places are very cold. I feel theres probably a big difference though from freezing to minus 30 in terms of any possible drug damage though...

Hagandaaz - I thought that if there's any chance of failure from an MDI it would be worth keeping two on me! I'm not normally quite so paranoid! When travelling I have a policy of trying to leave a few sets of enough drugs for the entire trip in different bags/with other people, incase my backpack go awol. (OK, I'm a little paranoid. I'm sure my Drs must think I sell them on ebay, I suddenly ask for so many every so often...).

EmilyH - great advice about armpits! Love it.

Thanks again guys for all your help, C xx


C - the hold of an aeroplane at 30,000 feet may very well be around -30 to-40 degrees - above 40,000 feet the temperature can fall to as low as -65, so I think that's probably as close a simulation to your -30 as you'll get without actually going there!


Ah yes, the neoprene face-mask. I have one and use it often. It can get cooooooooooold here! Although if I am more concerned about fashion I take a very large scarf and wrap it around about a million times.

As for the inhalers I think you are fine, like everyone has said. I always carry them very close to my person when it is that cold though. You don't want to be waiting for it to warm up in your armpit when you can't breathe, eh?

Most of all, have fun! I'm sure it will be a fantastic experience, wherever you are going. Good luck with your asthma



Wow, that's amazing about airplane holds. Had absolutly no idea. I'm sure they'll be fine then. (I'm not going to put a laptop in the hold, but maybe this means a laptop wont suffer hugely at -30 either??) I must be totally overestimating the effects of cold temps on things - I was assuming that things like batteries would probably fail, but maybe not...

AstraZeneca pointed out to me that -30 in terms of chemicals actually isn't very cold, and yep, Kate, they said that high temps were far worse than cold temps. Humid areas are particularly bad apparantly.

Thanks so much for your help everyone, C xx


C, batteries are not happy at freezing!

I tried using my mobile after it was in the car for nearly 3 weeks and its battery complained it was empty until I warmed the phone up.

Interesting about the low temperatures in the hold - My bag which flew up & down the atlantic had ventolin IV ampoules in and they were fine - I would have thought that they would have burst as the liquid froze!

Also don't they transport animals in the hold.... ?

(Sorry, divulging from the Inhalers)

C, where are you going that is sooo chilly?

I fancy Antartica for more penguins but have settled for the Falklands - bit warmer and just as exciting penguin wise. (Plus slightly lesser of a huge carbon pawprint!)



Unfortunately I'm not going to Antartica. I'll be about 100 miles from the Arctic Circle, in Alaska, in December. Cold and dark!

Have spent literally hours today trying to find cheap travel insurance. It seemed to either be £400-something, or about £100. Weird. If anyone happens to know of anyone who cover me just for asthma, please let me know. My employers are have already brought me insurance, but found out that this cannot cover asthma. But no one so far will let me pay the £30 quid or so excess for asthma without paying £400 for the rest of it. To complicate things, I might have broken my hand 10 days ago (and I'm leaving in 10 days, so it will still be broken) - but the bone isnt detectable on x-ray, so cant be diagnosed well enough to satisfy insurance companies. Blah blah blah...


Hi C,

Wow, so its Polar Bear country! Sounds good - Enjoy! I hope the hand feels better soon - wrap in fleecy glove!!

Alaska is part of the US so there will always be more to pay insurance wise.

Try the Post Office with their medical excess ( Underwritten by Fortis).

I had insurance from them (And I am severe / brittle) for a 2 week trip to the Falklands last year and for next year too!

I paid around £130 ( The medical excess was £80 included in that) Though when you go through the medical assessment on the phone they may say you don't need the excess but do check!!!

They paid up too for a small claim and have insured me again!

Hope this helps!



Thanks Kate, but the Post Office refused to insure me, it's a 2 month trip to the US and I'm being seen by a hospital consultant at the moment. It is too long a trip to insure an out-patient apparantly. I think insureandgo seem like the best option so far - they are fantastically flexible, so they allow you to do things like add one days artic dog sledding for £5 - rather than double the premium by adding extreme winter sports! They are also offering a year long policy and only adding 30 quid for asthma, although I suppose this may become void should anything change over the year.

I found cheap quotes with Rothwell & Towler and Karma, Direct line were double the cheaper quotes, and many were quadruple the cheaper ones. But I'm sure there's a lot of small print and excesses!


Oooh, I have never been up to Alaska. I have been to the Yukon though, which was so neat. This is a bit of a random questions, but how much is ""quid"" worth? I always hear it in British Tv shows and stuff but I can never figure out how much they mean by that. LOL

Anyway, I hope you do manage to find some reasonable travel insurance,



C - i went away for a few months, and my mother asked for 3 months worth of meds (asthma + a bunch of allergy stuff), they thought she was crazy but i got it! so they probably thought i was going to sell them too. And right before i moved to england my comsulant willingly ( i asked for 2 months worth) gave me 6 months worth of meds, which was good because it took a while to get setteled here in england and get back on track with consulants and GPs and stuff.

Have a good trip!


Brynne - a quid is a 'slang' word for pound, which is worth about US $2.


Thanks C! that clears it up for me heehee


Just incase anyone is worried about airplane holds getting very cold (for medication or non-medical things!) - on the BA website it says that their holds dont go below 0c. Obviously other airlines might go colder...


C, Have you tried ?


You may also like...