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Cold Air and Your Lung Health

By DuPage Medical Group Pulmonary Medicine

As temperatures drop, air is colder and can be increasingly dry which may irritate the lungs and airways, especially for people with chronic lung diseases like asthma, COPD or bronchitis. The cold air can cause a slew of respiratory symptoms including spasms in the airways, tightness in the chest, coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath and may be similar to an asthma attack. If you experience any of these symptoms it is important to get inside into warmer air as soon as possible.

Avoiding the cold air and outdoors entirely is impossible so DuPage Medical Group’s Pulmonary Medicine physicians share some tips to warm up and keep your lungs safe during colder weather.

  • Dress warmly and try layering up to better insulate your body.
  • Wear a hat to prevent heat from escaping through your head.
  • Use a loosely wrapped scarf to cover your nose and mouth before heading outdoors. This helps warm the air before it enters the lungs.
  • To reduce irritation of the lungs, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
  • Take all medications for chronic lung conditions as prescribed, keep rescue inhalers and other emergency medications on hand and discontinue activity and go indoors if you notice symptoms of distress.
  • Individuals with chronic lung conditions are also at an increased risk of developing adverse and potentially severe complications from cold and flu viruses, like pneumonia. The annual flu vaccine, frequent hand washing and avoiding contact with individuals who may be sick can help prevent the flu and other respiratory illnesses.

In addition to the cold air, air quality and pollutants more common in colder weather can also be harmful to the lungs. Air pollution can be higher in the winter due to increased use of fireplaces and vehicles idling for longer period of time. Cold air can also cause harmful chemicals like smoke and carbon monoxide to remain closer to the ground, so be sure to monitor local air quality forecasts and stay indoors when pollution levels are elevated. Individuals with COPD, asthma and other lung conditions should avoid wood-burning fireplaces. While they are a great way to warm up, the smoke and fumes can be very irritating to the lungs and airways. Using a heated blanket can be a safer alternative.

By following these helpful tips, you can keep your lungs safe even during the coldest days of the year. To schedule an appointment with a DMG Pulmonary Medicine doctor to learn other ways to keep your lungs healthy, call 630-871-6699 or request an appointment online at https://www.dupagemedicalgroup.com/services/pulmonary-medicine/.

Learn more about:
Pulmonary Medicine
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