A Mythbusters Report: Is it Harder to Breathe in Cold Weather? (Fleet Feet Sports, Very Well, American Lung Association)
Image: Man breathing in cold weather per Fleet Feet Sports.
Discussion: The 2017-18 winter season has extended its hand for Arctic air to have an extended stay in the Continental U.S. (CONUS). On January 19th, the NWS Weather Prediction Center’s Extended Forecast Discussion (issued at 11am EST) explains how below average temperatures are shifting from Central and Eastern U.S. to Western U.S. Already by next Friday, temperatures in the West are forecasted to be 5 °F – 15 °F below normal.
When spending long periods of time outside, people have found it harder to breathe and have even experienced a burning sensation. There’s a common myth that the colder it is outside the harder it is to breathe. Well that’s wrong! In actuality, the cold temperatures are not solely to blame for trouble breathing outside. Rather, the fact that cold air is much drier than warm air, and therefore has a lower relative humidity is the primary culprit. When inhaling dry air, cells that line the trachea give up their water supply to warm your body temperature to 98.6 °F and bring the relative humidity of the air to 100% before entering your lungs. This process can dehydrate and irritate trachea cells causing shortness of breath, burning in the lungs, wheezing, or coughing. This is especially true for people who suffer from chronic lung disease, asthma, bronchitis, or even Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Here are a few tips to remember for breathing outside when the next shot of Arctic air blasts your area:
Stay up to date on what’s happening this winter here.
©2018 Weather Forecaster Amber Liggett