How cold is too cold for your lungs?

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - You step outside, it's frigid, with a below zero windchill, you take your fist deep breath in and you feel it deep in your chest?

Is that your lungs freezing? No, but it is the airways within the lungs tightening up.

The people who will have the most trouble in this subzero weather are those who already have breathing problems like asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

But how cold is too cold?

"It's hard to know what temperature is too cold. It's freezing outside and I usually say a good rule of thumb is less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit," Dr. Rachel Taliercio said who is Pulmonologist with the Cleveland Clinic. "But you also have to take into account the windchill advisory and lately it's been really cold with the windchills. So I would definitely say single digits and check with the windchill advisory as well."

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Because the air is cold and constricting the airways it's very easy for someone with breathing problems to slip into a coughing attack when they step outside.

"So it's really important that if you do have to go outside in the cold temperatures that you take your rescue inhaler, your quick relief medication with you in the event that your symptoms flare," Dr. Taliercio said.

The body is an amazing instrument that tries to heat all air before it gets to your lungs. Especially if it travels through your nose. So a tip, if you're not going to wear a scarf over your face, is to breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.

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