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  1. #1
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    Caring for the lungs during cold rides

    In brief: how do you do it?

    Itís cold out and we know how to dress. We keep our fingers and toes from going numb. But, what about the lungs? For me, a scarf is not enough. Iíve gotten bronchial infections after commuting in the cold. How do you care for your lungs? Is there such a thing as a respirator-heater contraption?

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    Got Jesus? bikeCOLORADO's Avatar
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    Dang good Q. I've never had issues other than my lips getting cold. Of course I'm not road riding either - trail riding only for me.

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    Mercrudgeon Bikedud's Avatar
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    How do you care for your lungs? Is there such a thing as a respirator-heater contraption?
    If my memory serves me correctly, according to my exercise physiology classes (many years ago), that is the purpose of nose, throat, trachia, etc. The moisture in our nose and throat "condition" the air before it makes its way to our lungs.
    It does seem that under extreme conditions it might not be the best system but it seems to work for me.
    MTCW.
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  4. #4
    Slow Moving Vehicle Jean Beetham Smith's Avatar
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    Are you asthmatic? Cold air can induce asthma symptoms and set you up for bronchitis. There are some masks that claim to mix fresh air with the heat and moisture of your exhaled breath. I believe I saw some on either SierraTradingPost or Campmor. I've never needed more than my polyester balaclava, but if you are very cold sensitive the fleece face and neck masks with velcro fasteners could be easily added or removed as you needed them.
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    I am mildly asthmatic, although my asthma has been really well-controlled since I became a serious biker. That having been said, I do, occassionally, get that raw, irritated feeling in my lungs and bronchi from cold weather cycling, especially after more strenuous rides.

    I do two things: (1)I use a balaclava hood under my helmet (like a robber's mask...covers nose and mouth....only eyes exposed).
    (2) I drink warm herbal tea after most cold-weather rides.

    Here are the +/- I have found with the balaclava.

    + For me, it's more comfortable than a scarf. It stays in place. Also, and most importantly, because it covers the whole head, neck, nose....essentially, only your eyes are exposed, I rarely get that irritated feeling in my chest. Many are made of high-tech fabric that is both warm and wicks away moisture.

    - Sometimes it's too hot, and often, my goggles fog. If you pull it off of your nose for a while, things clear up, but it's hard to go full on and not steam up the goggles.

    I've gotten really good deals on balaclavas through both Performance Bike and Sierra Trading Post in the past (<$10).

    Mary Ann

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    Senior Member ahuman's Avatar
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    Balaclavas is the the way to go.. they keep your ears, nose,mouth and neck warm..
    for goggles/glasses I use adidas evil eyes. they have not fogged up yet..
    "I Love To Ride My Bicycle, My bicycle"

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    Originally posted by ahuman
    for goggles/glasses I use adidas evil eyes. they have not fogged up yet..
    That's good to know. I'll have to check them out! Thanks

    Mary Ann

  8. #8
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    Originally posted by ahuman
    Balaclavas is the the way to go.. they keep your ears, nose,mouth and neck warm..
    Agreed! I wear a Bula Pohood balaclava. It is made out of polar fleece and has not let me down once... even at -38C!

  9. #9
    Senior Member ahuman's Avatar
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    Metal Cowgal
    You are welcome, Just so you know "evil eyes" glasses are a little costly.. I think they are worth every dime! they do a good job protecting my pretty brown eyes...
    "I Love To Ride My Bicycle, My bicycle"

  10. #10
    Senior Member roadrage's Avatar
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    Can the cold air induced asthma be permanent or does it go away?

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    >>>>>"Are you asthmatic? Cold air can induce asthma symptoms and set you up for bronchitis."<<<<<<

    If your asthmatic, I have good news for you. Cold air and exercise will induce asthma like symptons big time and your only hope besides wearing a ski mask is simple

    Ride a recumbent.

    I could not believe how much longer and further I could ride with in a recumbent than a regular bicycle. It's the position of the seat that makes a huge difference. You will only use 40-70% of your lung capacity when riding a road bike. You will struggle for air big time if you have asthma since an asthmatic will lose 20-80% of their lung capacity during a ride. There is no way you can ride for any kind of distance with only 10-30% of your lung capacity.

    A bent with it's straight up laid back position will allow you to use 100% of your lung capacity so it's a no brainer in my opinion. You will still lose some lung capacity due to the asthma but you'll still be able to ride for longer periods of time since you'll total loss will not be as great. You could of couse take a ton of medicine and hope that works. It won't.

    The solution is simple.

    Get a bent.

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    >>>>>>>Can the cold air induced asthma be permanent or does it go away?<<<<<

    NO. This is a permanent condition since asthma cannot be cured. It will not go away.

    I have exercise and cold air induced asthma and this is my observation:

    1. If you cycle in the winter and year round, the condition doesn't get as bad. I come to a complete STOP after the FIRST mile of riding. I can then ride about another 5 - 10 miles before I'll need to stop again.

    2. Riding every day will expand your lung capacity so the time time you do have to stop is shorter. You will be able to ride further after each ride but you CANNOT go fast because the condition can get out of control. If you ride once in a while during the winter, the shock to your lungs will be extream.

    The above obversations above are far less severe on a recumbent.

    Steve.

  13. #13
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    In some cases asthma does go away. 2 winters ago I was having a terrible time breathing at night and I couldn't x-c ski more than a half mile without coming to a gasping stop. A couple times my breathing was so bad I thought I was going to die. So bad in fact that I actually went to a doctor where I was diagnosed with asthma. I took the prescribed medicines and as the weather warmed up the problems went away. Last winter I only used the medicines prior to excercising in cold weather. This winter I haven't taken any medicine and I haven't had a problem. I can't explain why it went away, but I sure don't miss it!
    The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. M.L.King

  14. #14
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    Originally posted by Dahon.Steve


    1. If you cycle in the winter and year round, the condition doesn't get as bad. I come to a complete STOP after the FIRST mile of riding. I can then ride about another 5 - 10 miles before I'll need to stop again.

    2. Riding every day will expand your lung capacity so the time time you do have to stop is shorter. You will be able to ride further after each ride but you CANNOT go fast because the condition can get out of control. If you ride once in a while during the winter, the shock to your lungs will be extream.

    Steve.
    I largely agree with this, with one exception.

    I've had exercise & cold-induced asthma with frequent bouts of bronchitis dating back to childhood. I have been active and athletic for most of my life, although it was not until I began biking seriously (6 years ago) that my asthma improved....dramatically. I have attributed this to the increased lung capacity, but if there's a pulmonologist/exercise physiologist that can explain it more technically, I'd love to hear the details. It hasn't made complete sense to me that cycling rather than other forms of exercise has improved this, other than the endurance part.....I do many half-century and century rides.

    I rarely have episodes of acute asthmatic symptoms and when I do, I can be weezing like crazy, but still getting enough oxygen to function. As an example, I've done the spirometer tests during these times, and my lung capacity tests out at more than 100% for age/height, even when I'm having an asthmatic attack!!!! So....the scary symptoms of not getting any breath never occur anymore and the episodes of asthma are almost nil.

    I don't agree that you can't go fast, however. This has not been a problem for me. The actual act of cycling has NEVER caused an asthmatic attack for me. I've only used my inhaler twice on biking trips and on both occasions, this seemed to be related to environmental allergins (camping) rather than the cycling. Also, I can't speak to the benefits of recumbent.

    Best Regards

    Mary Ann

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