By: Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – During extreme cold, you might find yourself huffing and puffing.

“I think it’s the wind. It hits you right in the face. It’s hard to catch your breath,” says Brian Reft of Mt. Washington.

“It’s harder to get a breath, especially if you have to get a deep breath,” Ellen Marcus of Allison Park said. “It almost feels as though you can’t get enough air going into your lungs.”

“The air is very cold, and there’s not a lot of humidity or water in it,” Dr. Deborah Gentile, an asthma specialist at Allegheny General Hospital said. “Particularly for anyone with any respiratory problems, it can actually cause a bronchospasm.”

That’s a clamping down of the airways and it’s rough on the lungs, especially for folks with bronchitis and emphysema.

“Their breathing tubes are sensitive to a variety of factors, it can be respiratory viruses, allergens, irritants,” Dr. Gentile said. “And believe it or not, cold air is one of them.”

To breathe easier, you can take a few simple steps.

Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.

“As you’re breathing in through your nose, your nose normally warms and humidifies air,” Dr. Gentile said.

Cold Air Face Mask

A cold-air face mask while outside can help or even just a scarf over your nose and mouth to trap and warm the air before it hits the lungs.

You can get a cold-air face mask at a drug store or a medical supply store. You can get a thicker one made of foam from the American Respiratory Alliance. Call 1-800-220-1990 for more information.

Home Humidifier

Use a home humidifier to moisturize indoor air with caution if you also have allergies.

“If you are running a humidifier in your house, you do want to make sure you’re cleaning it on a weekly basis,” Dr. Gentile said.

Also, if you take an inhaled bronchodilator, use it half an hour before venturing outdoors.

Watch & Listen LIVE