How Cold Weather Can Spell Trouble for Your Heart and Lungs

How Cold Weather Can Spell Trouble for Your Heart and Lungs

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Cold weather can pose significant issues when it comes to managing your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms. Too-cold temperatures further narrow already compromised airways, leading to a cascade of events that can increase difficulty breathing, mucus production, coughing, and more. Aside from being uncomfortable, these flares and exacerbations of COPD can be dangerous.

Why does cold air affect asthma symptoms?

The nose and mouth typically warm and humidify the air before it reaches the lungs, and this makes it easier to breathe.

When the air is very dry and cold, as in the winter, it is more difficult for the body to warm.

When cold air hits the airways, the lungs react by tightening. Cold air contains less moisture, and breathing it in can dry out the airways. This can cause the airways to spasm, triggering an asthma attack, which can involve coughing.

Cold air is dry

Your airways are lined with a thin layer of fluid. When you breathe in dry air, that fluid evaporates faster than it can be replaced. Dry airways become irritated and swollen, which worsens asthma symptoms.

Cold air also causes your airways to produce a substance called histamine, which is the same chemical your body makes during an allergy attack. Histamine triggers wheezing and other asthma symptoms.

Cold increases mucus

Your airways are also lined with a layer of protective mucus, which helps remove unhealthy particles. In cold weather, your body produces more mucus, but it’s thicker and stickier than normal. The extra mucus makes you more likely to catch a cold or other infection.

Cold air and your lungs

Cold air also can impact your breathing – especially if you have a lung disease like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

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