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Why is Cold Air Harder to Breathe?

Anyone who has spent prolonged periods of time outside in extremely cold weather has experienced the burning sensation in their lungs when they inhale frigid air. This is because when we take a breath, the humidity in the air must be warmed up to body temperature before reaching our lungs. In the winter time, air is much drier, so our body uses existing moisture from cells in our trachea to supplement the air, thus creating irritation and subsequent “burning sensation” that we feel. For a person with normal respiratory function, this process is uncomfortable but recoverable. For a person with asthma, it’s more problematic because it can trigger an asthma attack. To learn more about the affects of asthma and to get in touch with the top asthma specialist in New York, reach out to Dr. Shukla today for a consultation.

During an asthma attack, the sufferer experiences a bronchospasm, that is, the tightening of muscles around the airway. Additionally, the lining of the airway swells and produces more and thicker mucus. These three events together generate coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, tightness in the chest, and other symptoms that, if left untreated, can be life-threatening.

Asthma attacks can be triggered by environmental allergens (dust, pollen, mold, mildew), air pollution, smoking or being exposed to second-hand smoke, exercise, anxiety, stress, and at this time of year, breathing cold winter air. To avoid exacerbating asthma symptoms and prevent escalating into a full-blown attack, people who suffer from asthma should take precautionary measures to protect themselves from the onset of an attack during winter weather.

1.) Exercise Inside. When you’re breathing harder, your trachea sheds more cells and becomes dehydrated. Cold air makes this process accelerate, so during cold snaps either slow your workout down or take it inside the gym.

2.) Drink More Water. It seems counter-intuitive to drink a lot of water when you’re essentially side-lined due to weather, but remember that cold equals dry. Keep yourself hydrated to give your body all the fuel it needs to stay healthy.

3.) Cover Your Face. No matter what Mother Nature is throwing your way, sometimes being outside is unavoidable. If you absolutely must be out in inclement weather, cover your mouth and nose with a ski mask or muffler – it will help warm the air as you inhale so your body has to do less of the heavy lifting.

4.) Use a Humidifier. Indoor air is drier in the wintertime too. Keep a humidifier running in your bedroom at night to help your respiratory system renew itself while you sleep.

5.) Use a Dehumidifier. Some parts of the country are prone to mold and mildew no matter the weather. If you live in a damp environment, check walls, ceilings, and inside closets for mold. If you find it, eradicate it with a solution that will kill it, and then use a dehumidifier in those areas to keep it dry.

6.) Take Your Shoes Off. Most dirt and pollutants are tracked into your home by the people who live there. Set up a bench and boot tray by the front door and clean it often.

7.) Clean Your House. Spending more time shut indoors means everyday pollutants like mold, dust, and dander have more opportunities to wreak havoc on your respiratory system. Vacuum and dust at least once a week – especially your bedroom – and wash your bed sheets in hot water on a weekly basis. Don’t forget to regularly clean or change filters on heaters as well.

8.) Accessorize with Machine Washable Materials. Wherever possible, opt for hard floors over carpeting and use cotton or washable fiber area rugs. Replace heavy drapes with washable curtains and use plain, smooth window shades over mini-blinds.

9.) Wear a Mask When You Clean. Better yet, have someone else do it while you’re away.

Asthma Specialist in New York

If you are an asthma sufferer, now is a great time to make sure that your medications and care protocols are on track. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Shukla, the top asthma specialist tin New York, to guarantee a happier, healthier, winter season.

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