There is a paucity of studies investigating extreme cold events and asthma exacerbations. This study examined whether an association exists between cold spells and daily hospital admissions for asthma in Beijing, China from 2012 to 2016.
Daily hospital admissions for asthma, meteorological variables and air quality data were collected during 2012-2016 in Beijing. A cold spell was defined as a period of at least two consecutive days with the daily mean temperature below or at the 5th percentile (-7 °C) in cold seasons (November to March) during the study period. We applied a time-series design using quasi-Poisson regression combined with a distributed lag model to estimate the risk of asthma hospital admissions associated with cold spells. Stratified analyses by gender and age groups were conducted to identify the potential susceptible subpopulations to cold spells. We also explored the effect modification by air quality by dividing the daily air quality index (AQI) into two levels (high and low) based on the median value.
Cold spells increased the risk of asthma hospital admissions, with the maximum cumulative relative risk (CRR) over three weeks (Lag0-21) in the total population. The highest single-day relative risk (RR) was found on the days of cold spells (Lag0) with the RR = 1.059 (95% CI: 1.008-1.113), and the CRR at Lag0-21 was 1.333 (95% CI: 1.049-1.693). Across different gender and age groups, younger people (<65 years) were more sensitive to cold spells. No significant effect modification by AQI was detected.
Short-term exposure to cold spells is associated with an increased risk of hospital admissions for asthma in Beijing. During the cold spells, younger people aged <65 years were at particular risk for asthma exacerbations. Our results suggest that extreme cold events have a significant impact on asthma.

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