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Cold winter air & lungs ..problem?

Old 11-24-07, 06:29 AM
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macteacher
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Cold winter air & lungs ..problem?

Hi people... this is my first post in these forums

I was commuting this year (first time ever) but I took a break a few weeks ago, for a variety of reasons...rain/bring heavy items to work..etc. Anyhow, I was planning to start up again this week, but I am now sick. So i'm going to wait it out.

For those of you though that are winter cycling... how do you deal with the cold air entering your lungs? I hate that feeling. I'm talking about the freezing air type. I purchased a mask that I thought would 'warm' the air up..and it worked...problem was I couldn't breath through my nose as the mucus built up.

SOOoooo... here is my real question.... (sorry i took so long to ask), is there any negative effect from breathing in 'cold' air? Is it bad for the body? lungs?

I can't wait for my cough to subside so I can get out there again. I have purchased another mask...maybe two might do the trick?


Cheers
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Old 11-24-07, 07:05 AM
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I am not sure how cold you are talking about. I ride if it is above 20 degrees (f). After a mile or two I don't really notice any difference.
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Old 11-24-07, 07:24 AM
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I have seen some masks that claim to heat the air somewhat as you inhale, but I have no experience with them. Try a google search and see what you get. One is called breathxchange I think.
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Old 11-24-07, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by macteacher View Post
Hi people... this is my first post in these forums

I was commuting this year (first time ever) but I took a break a few weeks ago, for a variety of reasons...rain/bring heavy items to work..etc. Anyhow, I was planning to start up again this week, but I am now sick. So i'm going to wait it out.

For those of you though that are winter cycling... how do you deal with the cold air entering your lungs? I hate that feeling. I'm talking about the freezing air type. I purchased a mask that I thought would 'warm' the air up..and it worked...problem was I couldn't breath through my nose as the mucus built up.

SOOoooo... here is my real question.... (sorry i took so long to ask), is there any negative effect from breathing in 'cold' air? Is it bad for the body? lungs?

I can't wait for my cough to subside so I can get out there again. I have purchased another mask...maybe two might do the trick?


Cheers
First off, welcome to BF. Hope your experience here is both entertaining and enlightening. It's, probably THE place on the 'net for info re all things cycling.

That being said beyond a little shock when first starting out the air warms up enough when breathing while exerting yourself. I've commuted in Chicago when I first started out and never had a problem. The coldest temp I've ever ridden in was -14F and beyond protecting my nose, eyes, and forehead it never occurred to me to take any special precautions re the air temp entering my lungs.

You may experience fogging in your goggles, but there's plenty of DIY info here on the commuting forum to rectify that situation. Just make sure you deal with your cough as it may be indicative of something a little more serious. Also, there's a neoprene mask sold online...I can't recall the web address, but someone'll be along shortly who'll have it. It's made to dissipate your outgoing breath so it doesn't fog your goggles and it warms the incoming air. Of, course you'll look like a hockey goalie...
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Old 11-24-07, 07:55 AM
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Ride slower. Less huffing and puffing.
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Old 11-24-07, 08:50 AM
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Think cross country skiing and you will realize there is no question here. Just be sure you don't get frostbite and be prepared to blow your snot rockets well away from you.
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Old 11-24-07, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by ColorChange View Post
Think cross country skiing and you will realize there is no question here. Just be sure you don't get frostbite and be prepared to blow your snot rockets well away from you.
yes, correct, and if cold air were dangerous to breathe, there would be no native peoples living in Alaska or Arctic Canada, etc.
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Old 11-24-07, 11:08 AM
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I bought one of the balaclavas with the heat exchanger breather in it. Couldn't stand it; it really slowed me down because I couldn't breathe fast enough through it to keep my speed up (I'd get short of breath at speed).
I just got used to it. I hold the tip of my tongue against the back of my top teeth so that the incoming air flows as much as possible around my tongue, cheeks, and the roof of my mouth, to warm the air up a bit before it hits my throat. I mix in a bit of air from the nose as well. I can't get enough air through my nose, but some from there warms things up a bit.

There's actually some speculation, and I'm starting to think it's true, that the slight damage to the throat is beneficial; normally when you start to get a cold, the body doesn't react by dumping out mucous into your throat to try to wash away the infection until after the virus has gained a foothold.

When you're riding in the cold all the time, your throat is constantly getting a mucous flow, and that may preemptively wash incoming viruses away from the throat cells.
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Old 11-25-07, 08:14 PM
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You'll get used to it after a while.
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Old 11-26-07, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by ColorChange View Post
Think cross country skiing and you will realize there is no question here. Just be sure you don't get frostbite and be prepared to blow your snot rockets well away from you.
No problems with cold air and the lungs - air entering the lungs heats up very quickly. ColorChange is right - a much greater risk is frostbite especially to exposed skin (ears, chin, cheeks) or to your fingers and toes. Frostbite can sort of creep up on you without you noticing until it's too late - but it's really painful when you try to thaw out the frozen bits. The potential for higher speeds on a bike (like 15-25 mph) can really make windchill induced frostbite a problem even in temperatures only a few degrees below freezing, something winter joggers or xc skiers may not experience.
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Old 11-26-07, 12:56 PM
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I alternate between a neoprene ski mask (nose and mouth) and just a wool scarf bundled way loose around my neck and chin, that actually makes enough of a retention zone that air in it is warmed when I breathe out. This mostly a lower-20s or teens F extravaganza, I didn't really notice anything going in today at ~30F, maybe high 20s.
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Old 11-26-07, 12:58 PM
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A silk balaclava makes breathing easy and doesn't block much air. Low tech. Old tech.
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Old 11-26-07, 12:58 PM
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Every year it happens that I'm coughing like crazy when I finish my cold ride upon entering the warmth. It goes away in a couple/few weeks of consistent cold temperatures. I find after that my body gets used to it and it won;t bug me until next winter. When it's gets really cold (-15C - -20C and colder) I'll wear a thin balaclava. Super cold air going straight in can damage tissues.
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Old 11-26-07, 01:26 PM
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I've noticed I just keep the chin of my balaclava over my mouth (but not nose) if I feel it's too much. Other than the air making it seem a bit more work sometimes (density difference?) I've not had any worries, I think you just get used to it.

I think it's neat to have steam and stuff rising from your body in this weather - not just breath, but steam from body heat (I get it usually from my hands/arms when gloves come off or my back/shoulders, heh).
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Old 11-26-07, 01:37 PM
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I use a very thin balaclava and often only pull it partially over my mouth so as to get some warmer air, some colder air. I have athsma and the pure cold air shuts me down much faster than having to pull air through a cloth. This has worked quite well for me.
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Old 11-26-07, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by macteacher View Post
SOOoooo... here is my real question.... (sorry i took so long to ask), is there any negative effect from breathing in 'cold' air? Is it bad for the body? lungs?
Welcome to BF

No issue unless you have asthma. i have slight asthma and it can bother me. balaclava (how the H@!! you spell that?... call it a "headsock") helps a lot.
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Old 11-26-07, 02:20 PM
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As the others have stated, it's really not a problem unless you have asthma.

I wear a neck gaiter pulled up over my face... it's loose at the top so the air can come in along my cheeks, and warm up a bit before I breath it. I can't breath THROUGH the gaiter because I can't get enough air that way... but the air coming in along the top edge is plenty. I've had no problems with my asthma down to -5 F this way.
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Old 11-26-07, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by macteacher View Post
I can't wait for my cough to subside so I can get out there again. I have purchased another mask...maybe two might do the trick?Cheers
Definitely wait for your cough to subside. After that, it depends on how cold it is where you live. The temps in Little Rock usually get down into the 30's in winter. I don't have a problem with the air, though I do need lipbalm and a knit cap to prevent brain freeze when going down hills. Colder temps, I can't address.
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Old 11-26-07, 02:37 PM
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In most cases, one should remove the lungs and store them in a secure, warm, and moderately humidified place before riding in nastybadcoldmeanuglydirtysinfulrottenstupid cold winter air. Lungs bad.





Seriously...

Balaclavas help. Masks of various types help.

Inhale through your nose. Your nasal passages are designed to pre-warm and humidify air before it hits your lungs.


Anything you can put between your nose and the elements that doesn't make you pass out after a block should be good.
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Old 11-26-07, 02:42 PM
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It takes me a couple of rides to acclimate to that icky feeling of breathing cold air. Then I more-or-less forget about it as long as I don't ride too hard.
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Old 11-26-07, 07:31 PM
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Thanks for all the great tips people. I'm really fascinated about the idea of the mucus washing away potential viruses.

My cough is ....on and off.... comes and goes....i have a feeling it's going to linger with me for some time to come. I'm just gonna start riding and see where this takes me. I should be fine.

Breathing through the nose is ideal, but once I start working up, i need more air so I move to breathing through the mouth, and the nose gets full of mucus...or as one put it "snot rockets"... LOL

Tomorrow will be my first ride back in a couple of weeks in absence. Morning ride temps tomorrow will be -5c, or 23 F. Im planning to wear my balaclava, a half face mask and bring a scarf with me, just in case. The high temps for the ride home will be 1c, or 33F.

This will be the coldest i've ever ridden in so far. A chance of flurries as well... I can't wait, i'm so excited to be back on my bike

I'll probably have some hot chocolate or tea before I leave the house, just to warm my body up a bit.
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Old 11-26-07, 07:37 PM
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The first winter I commuted I suffered a 4-5 day attack of what seemed like cold-induced asthma. Basically I didn't have enough clothes on, it was windy and about 25F. Haven't had it since I discovered the balaclava.

I recommend wearing a thin balaclava and also a scarf that you can pull up over your mouth if you need it. Also... go slower. There's less of a wind-chill effect.
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Old 11-26-07, 07:55 PM
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I use a headskoz, basically a ski mask. I have ridden in 32 degree weather nothing colder yet but I have felt very warm. I do not see why cyclists ride without covering their mouths, they are prone to get sick and the bodys immune system goes down as the heat does as well. I feel that the headskoz has done its justice, sometimes its so hot that I have to take it down for a few minutes sometimes. That is only after a big hill though. It keeps you very warm! You can use it to cover your ears and mouth and it goes over your whole head if you want. If you are planning to ride all winter prepare for it and stay warm. best of luck.
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Old 11-26-07, 10:52 PM
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I've ridden in 5 degree F for my very short (1.3 mile commute, I have had no problems breathing through my mouth, eyes and nose, however, tend to run like mad.
I usually use ski goggles when it is below 15 degrees F, or if really windy 20 degrees, they help a lot to prevent my eyes from tearing, but do reduce my peripheral vision.
On my short commute I have not had a frostbite problem. I have had minor frostbite on my ears, cheeks and nose while skiing twice in minus 5 degree F weather. Both times on areas I didn't cover, the exposed areas were very painful at the start of the run, until suddenly they stopped hurting all together. When I thawed them in the base lodge at the end of that run, well, thats when it really stung.
Be careful, it can sneak up on you:
Ski Patrol at the Base lift "Hey buddy, is your nose frostbitten?"
Me: "Naw, it's fine."
Tapping my finger against my nose, and feeling nothing "Uh oh!"
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