With the Midwest and Northeast regions of the U.S. facing arctic cold temperatures, clinical associate professor of family medicine at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine Dr. David Holmes released a report alerting people who suffer from chronic respiratory conditions to take the freezing weather seriously, as it can easily aggravate their symptoms and prompt exacerbations.
Patients who suffer from chronic health conditions are more vulnerable to the health risks associated with cold temperatures. This is because the cardiovascular system needs to raise the body’s blood pressure and heart rate due to the cold, which can cause a heart attack or ventricular arrhythmia.
Due to the chilly weather, there is also a tendency for the airways to narrow, making it difficult to breathe normally. The nasal passages and airways tend to become dry after breathing cold air, which can cause bronchospasms and bouts of coughing. Patients who suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, chronic bronchitis or heart conditions have a higher probability of developing subsequent adverse reactions or exacerbations due to the subfreezing temperatures.
The effect of the weather on the lungs and other parts of the body depends chiefly on the temperature and wind chill, which will determine how much time someone can be outside without experiencing complications. In addition to lung difficulties, freezing can result in frostbite, characterized by numbness, tingling, loss of feeling, aching and loss of color in the body part affected, most commonly the toes, fingers, nose, ears, cheeks or chin.
Dr. Holmes’ tips for braving the cold weather include wearing several layers of loose clothing, since layering enables insulation and tight clothes decrease the circulation capacity of the blood, as well as covering the ears, head, face, hands and feet.
In addition, the physician recommends the use of a warm winter jacket and pants or long underwear, and the consumption of soup, hot chocolate, coffee or tea in order to warm the body after being out in the cold.