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HomeHealth & FitnessThe Cold Can't Breathe: How To Breathe Easier In Winter

The Cold Can't Breathe: How To Breathe Easier In Winter

November 11, 2022 – Karen Ruckert is not looking forward to winter. The 69-year-old living in Far Rockaway, N.Y., suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which makes it difficult to breathe even in the best of times, especially while walking. But the cold air made everything worse.


Nava Myers, a 31 A year-old dental hygienist had a similar problem. She has asthma. In cold weather, her lungs constrict. “If I’m walking, I have to stop, catch my breath, and pant. As soon as I’m out, I feel tightness and contraction.”

People with respiratory conditions (such as asthma, COPD, sinusitis or allergies) or who may be dealing with the long-term effects of COVID-19 often find it difficult to breathe in cooler temperatures .

Jodi Jaeger, Breathe Ascension Therapist at SE Wisconsin Hospital,

said cold temperatures and low humidity can affect the airways.

“Cold, dry air irritates the lungs, causing the muscles surrounding the airways to contract, thereby The airway is actually very narrow,” she said. The technical term for this disorder is bronchospasm.

A narrow airway means there is less room for air to get in and out. In addition, the mucus in the airways tends to dry out, and the narrower airways make it harder to clear. So the mucus can clog the airways.

“This causes shortness of breath, feeling constricted or tight, and sometimes a burning sensation in the chest, and Frequent wheezing or coughing,” Jaeger said.

Even healthy people exercising rigorously in very cold temperatures can expose themselves to risk of these symptoms.

Fortunately, there are many simple self-care measures that can reduce risk and manage symptoms.

Cover your face

Jaeger advises people to dress warmly when going outside.

Use a scarf or cold weather face covering — not a thin surgical “COVID-type” face covering — — or a scarf worn over the face to cover the nose,” said Jaeger

which helps Warm the air around your nose and keep some moisture in. Although some people find it annoying to have a wet scarf, you are breathing in moisture instead of dry, cold air.

Ruckert covers her face when walking in cold weather but slightly reveals a small area around her nose because her glasses are steamed so she can’t see To where she is going.

Miles wraps the “round scarf” around her neck. She also covered her ears. “My ears were cold so I wore a really good scarf that covered my throat, mouth, nose and ears. “

Breathe through your nose

Breathing through the nose is better than breathing through the mouth Even better, because the nose is “a better humidifier than the mouth,” says Jaeger. “If you combine breathing through the nose with a face covering, that goes a long way toward preventing chest tightness, shortness of breath, and cold-induced bronchospasm.” “

Avoid in extremely cold weather Do strenuous outdoor exercise

Exercise can make it hard to breathe because when you exercise, you increase the amount of air you breathe compared to when you’re resting, Jaeger explains. “This leads to tightness and burning, and eventually wheezing. ”

Even in people without lung disease, strenuous outdoor exercise in extremely cold weather—especially for more than 30 minutes—can trigger Symptoms, which may last up to 24 hours. Re-dress appropriately and stay hydrated. And consider reducing the intensity or duration of your workout – or both, Jaeger recommends.

Both Ruckers and Miles try to avoid walking outside in the cold weather.

“If I do go outside in the cold, if I want to walk with my kids friends, I have to stop and catch my breath,” Myers said.

Miles can’t walk and talk on the phone at the same time in the cold. “I might want to tell a story, but here we go At some point, I had to stop, take a breath, and finish the story when I got home. “

Stay hydrated

Jaeger noted that in cold weather, The air is drier both outside and indoors. “Drinking more water will help the body stay hydrated, so when you’re outside, your lungs are better protected and your mucus is less sticky and less likely to get stuck.” live. She also recommends using lotion and lip balm so the skin and lips don’t dry out.

She recommends Hot or warm herbal tea or water with lemon and raw honey. A bonus is that certain teas, such as peppermint or chamomile, can also soothe the respiratory tract.

Take care of your indoor environment too

In winter, people spend more time indoors, there are some things you can do to make your indoor environment healthy for the respiratory system Health is more friendly. For example, take extra care to keep your home clean and free of dust and other allergens that can affect your breathing.

Jaeger recommends using a humidifier to balance the dry air often caused by the use of radiators.

“That way, when you’re at home, you’re adding humidity to your body so that when you’re out, you’re not dehydrated,” she says.

Make sure you clean your humidifier regularly so bacteria and mold don’t grow and release into the air, she warns. Follow package directions or clean with vinegar and water.

Some portable humidifiers can be used with small disposable water bottles. They can be taken in the car, taken to the office, or used while traveling. Use a disposable bottle Prevents bacteria and mold growth.

Ruckert placed a pan of water radiator on top. Along with As the water evaporates, the air becomes more humid.

In addition to air quality, you can also help breathe through Use essential oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree oil. “You can rub it on yourself—where you can smell it—or put it on a cotton ball next to your pillow,” says Jaeger.

Drugs to assist breathing

People with respiratory disease usually have Take medication to manage their condition. Some are used regularly, Others are “rescue” medications that are used only when symptoms occur.

“Before exposure to cold air, take your prescription rescue inhaler,” advises Jaeger . Keep your medication with you in case you need it outdoors.

Jaeger said that ideally, people with known respiratory Work with your healthcare provider to develop an action plan. Most people with these conditions can measure the amount of air being expelled from their lungs with a device called a peak flow meter. “You should know when your medications may need to be adjusted and when to contact your provider.”

If you have never had shortness of breath and you just have a problem, she stresses, you should take it seriously, especially if simple self-care measures are not working. “If you have severe difficulty breathing or wheezing and are unable to complete your sentence, you need immediate medical attention.”

Myers use several different types of inhalers, some on a consistent basis and others on an as-needed basis. “I don’t feel like they make a big enough impact in cold weather, and they’re prohibitively expensive, so I tend to avoid going outside in the winter,” she says.



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