It’s finally fall! The leaves are turning into glorious colors, and the air is crisp. Days are getting shorter, and nights are longer. Sweater weather has begun, and temperatures will only continue to drop as the year winds down.
Cold weather means more time indoors, with blazing fires and comforting mugs of hot chocolate, coffee, or tea. But it also means colder, drier air with the potential to irritate the airways and make it harder to breathe. Let’s talk about a few ways to protect your lungs in the fall and winter months:
Opt for indoor exercise
Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but walking around the block gets tricky when temperatures drop. For some individuals with Asthma or COPD, irritation of the cold, dry air can exacerbate inflammation, constriction, and mucus production in the airways.
If a treadmill or gym membership isn’t in the cards, YouTube is a great resource for indoor exercises – from yoga to cardio. It’s always a good idea to check in with a medical professional before changing your exercise routine.
Bring out the woollies
The first sign of fall is a great time to bring out the woollies. If you have to go out in a colder climate, consider covering your nose, mouth, and neck with cozy winter accessories like scarves and stoles. A good wool scarf serves to remove some of the chills from the air before it reaches the lungs, lessening the harmful effects of cold air on your respiratory system.
Breathe through your nose
That might seem like a no-brainer, but even a little exertion in the cold weather prompts the lungs to draw in gulps of air through the mouth. Resist the impulse. Instead, try consciously to breathe through the nose. The reason is simple: cold air has extra time to get warmer when traveling through the nose than through the mouth.
Keep an eye on air quality
Air pollution is often overlooked during winter because we spend so much time inside. But air quality can be a significant issue this time of year, especially in areas with a lot of wood-burning! You can keep tabs on the air quality in your neighborhood by entering your zip code at https://www.airnow.gov.
There are also quite a few indoor pollutants to watch out for, from cooking fumes to cleaning products. Consider investing in an air purifier – ideally one that tracks indoor air quality and removes particulate matter from the air.
Proactively Support Your Immune System
Studies show that cold weather affects the immune system, which means that the body has fewer defenses against such respiratory infections as flu, bronchitis, and pneumonia. You can reduce exposure by wearing your mask, avoiding large crowds, and regularly washing your hands. More proactive measures include getting your flu shot and talking to your doctor about nutritional strategies to support a healthy immune response.