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Lungs Hurt After Running In Cold

by Lyndon Langley
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Lungs Hurt After Running In Cold

Lungs Hurt After Running In Cold

Do you ever run or walk outdoors on really cold days? Do you notice that you feel more winded than usual after running for half an hour or so? Or do you wonder why you are coughing at all? The chances are good that if this happens to you then your lungs hurt. And they can hurt badly enough to make even experienced athletes quit their workouts and take off the rest of the day.
Why does this happen? It’s not just because you ran out of breath, though. Your lungs hurt because they aren’t used to working with such cold air. They were designed to work with warm moist air, which makes up most of the air we breathe. But when there’s less moisture in the air, the lung tissue has to work harder to get oxygen to the blood stream. This causes irritation and inflammation.
So what exactly happens to our lungs when we expose them to cold air? To understand how cold air affects us, let’s first talk about what happens when we inhale normally. When we breathe in, the air travels through the nose and throat down past the back of our tongue where it hits the pharynx wall. From here, the air divides into two tubes — one for each side of the mouth. Each tube splits again into smaller branches called bronchii which carry the air into the lungs. As the air enters the lungs, it heats up and becomes much drier. At the same time, the water content of the air increases from 7 percent to 24 percent. Inside the lungs, the air mixes with the liquid and gets warmed up further before it finally reaches the alveoli. Here, the tiny air sacs absorb all the oxygen from the air. With every breath, the oxygenated blood takes this oxygen to the heart and brain.
When we run or walk in the cold, however, things change drastically. First, the temperature drops. A person who runs indoors at 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.6 degrees Celsius) will typically sweat and breathe out roughly 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1 degrees Celsius). But when you go outside during wintertime, the air feels 20 to 40 degrees colder. That means that instead of getting water vaporized inside your mouth, it condenses onto your face and chest. Also, since the air is dryer, it doesn’t have nearly as much water vapor in it. So your airway is filled mostly with hot, dry air rather than moistened air. And since the air isn’t as moist, the lungs won’t be able to absorb as much oxygen from it. Finally, by running outdoors, you also increase the speed at which you exhale. The faster you exhale, the colder the air around your mouth is going to be. Without moisturizing the air, the air is going to dry up quickly and hit your face and chest hard. You’ll probably feel it burning as well.
As a result, the air going into the lungs is cold, dry and fast-moving. Since the lungs weren’t built to handle these conditions, they’ll become irritated very quickly. This leads to inflammation and swelling. Plus, since your body thinks it needs more oxygen, it sends more red blood cells rushing to the lungs to try to suck up any oxygen left over.
In short, the lungs’ reaction to cold air is similar to the reaction people have when they get hay fever. Hay fever occurs when the lining of the nasal passages becomes inflamed due to exposure to allergens. Similarly, the lining of our lungs swells up when exposed to irritants. Most likely, this is also happening to your lungs when you run outdoors in the cold.
To protect themselves against these irritants, the lungs need to create mucus. Mucus is a sticky substance made of proteins and sugars that lubricates and protects the lungs. Unfortunately, when our bodies get too many irritants, the mucus production can slow down. This is especially true when we have allergies. During allergy seasons, our bodies produce extra mucus to help keep out the pollen causing the problem. However, when we run in cold weather, we may produce less of this protective mucus. So, while we may think that we got sick because we didn’t take off sooner, the real culprit could be the cold itself.
For those of you looking to avoid this uncomfortable condition, here are three tips to prevent your lungs from hurting.
First, remember that you should always wear proper clothing. Make sure you have plenty of layers between you and the elements. Keep your head covered, but leave your neck open. Letting your skin breathe helps regulate your core temperature. Wear gloves and socks to reduce impact damage caused by friction. And of course, stay hydrated! Drink lots of fluids to replace the lost water in your body.
Second, don’t underestimate the power of breathing techniques. By slowing down your pace and deepening your breaths, you can lower your core temperature and improve circulation. This allows more oxygen to reach your vital organs including your lungs. Taking long, regular breaks is another great way to cool down. Just stop moving and relax until you’ve returned to normal.
Third, consider taking supplements that contain vitamin C, E and B vitamins. Vitamin C provides protection against free radicals that attack cell membranes, while vitamin E works as an antioxidant. And the B vitamins help convert food into energy. All of these nutrients may also be helpful in reducing symptoms associated with respiratory problems.
Finally, remember that no matter how often you fall victim to cold weather running, it’s never worth giving up exercising altogether. Take care of yourself by dressing properly and staying active. There are other ways to spend your time and stay fit.

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