Depending on your state, winter in the United States can range from temperate and cool to practically immobilizing.
As the temperature drops, the cooler atmosphere can begin to cripple capillaries in the lungs—making exercise and basic activity outside painful and sometimes dangerous. And for the nearly 10% of Americans that suffer from asthma or asthma-related diseases, this problem is only amplified by cooler weather.
The simplest advice for those suffering from chest pains or cold-related asthma is to remain indoors as long as possible. But when staying inside simply isn’t an option, consider these
Six Ways to Protect Your Lungs from Winter Winds and A Cold Day Outdoors:
1. Watch The Weather
Preparation is the key factor in keeping yourself safe and healthy during winter weather, and correlates to every suggestion on our list. However, it may be most applicable for planning out the week based on the weather.
When possible, shift your outdoor activities and commute to the warmest days of the week, or the days that no precipitation is forecasted.
For those who suffer from asthma, the forecast is important for more than just the high or low of the day. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) strongly recommend that the Air Quality Index (AQI) be taken into account when considering a day out.
Any AQI of over 101 is dangerous for those who suffer from asthma, so keeping your outdoor excursions to days below that number will keep your lungs and health in check.
2. Dress The Part
If you must go outside, choosing the right clothes for the task can mean the difference between a bitter day and a pneumonia diagnosis.
Dress In Layers
Choose clothes made from wool or fleece over clothes made of cotton or polyester. The goal here is to keep your body heat as insulated from the outdoors as possible.
For your lungs, invest in a woolen scarf and wear it loosely over your mouth and nose. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth—slowly—as you travel to warm the air before it enters your body.
Take things slow, keep heated when possible, and remember to keep the appropriate clothes nearby for all outdoor travel—short or long.
3. Get A Humidifier
Keeping moisture in your body is a good way to keep your air passages from becoming inflamed or constricted by the cold air—so if you find that the indoors are also giving you problems with lung pain, consider investing in a humidifier.
Keep the humidifier running as often as possible to keep moist air around you as you sleep each night. Don’t forget to clean your device often, as stagnant water can make for some very nasty bacterial developments. Use cold water when possible.
Humidifiers do more than help prevent chest and lung pain—in fact, it’s shown that humidifiers help with a variety of winter-related diseases, such as the flu or pneumonia.
4. Skip Outdoor Exercise
With all of this talk about avoidance and careful mitigation, it can be easy to cut down or completely eliminate exercise from winter months.
Exercise is more than optional—in fact, maintaining a healthy body will keep your immune system strong and keep your lungs working at their full capacity.
Consider a gym membership at a climate-controlled location. If a gym isn’t your style, look into the best rowing machines for home exercise routines throughout the winter months. These machines are a great for keeping your exercise routine through winter, and can really help you shred that winter weight when the seasons has gone but the weather is still too cold for exercise.
The only concession you need to make during winter is keeping exercise indoors—until the sun comes out again.
5. Get Medicated
If your lungs are feeling worse than in previous years or you’re experiencing strange symptoms, book a doctor’s appointment immediately.
Prevention may be key to protecting yourself from the elements, but only a doctor can prescribe medication that will positively affect your airways and allow you to spend more time outside in winter weather.
Prescription medication is a helpful ally in keeping healthy during winter months—especially for those who living in cities like New York, that thrive on foot and require lots of walking.
New Yorkers can find a pharmacy or other boroughs to even deliver their prescriptions right to their doorstep. Even if you don’t live in New York or a major city, consider finding ways to limit your travel time to pharmacies by utilizing such a service.
6. Limit Smoke Exposure
An electric heater or bonfire outside might seem like a great way to combat the cold, but these activities may be harming you more than they’re helping.
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) are pretty conclusive on the dangers of secondhand smoke—which isn’t limited to tobacco or cigarettes.
Overexposure to campfires or even indoor furnaces without proper ventilation can irritate your asthma and damage your airways.
Limit Your Smoke Exposure
Keep warm however possible—but not at the expense of the lungs that you’re trying to protect.
We hope that you try out these six tips as you navigate the winter weather, and don’t feel too down about the bitter cold. Summer will come soon enough.