Cold-weather exercise may trigger asthma TO YOUR HEALTH


December 22, 1992|By Dr. Gabe Mirkin | Dr. Gabe Mirkin,Contributing WriterUnited Feature Syndicate

Many people become short of breath or wheeze when they exercise in cold, dry winter weather. If you experience this problem, see your doctor. You probably have exercise-induced asthma. Millions of Americans -- one in 10 -- suffer from it.

Asthma is an intermittent obstruction of the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs. In some people, the problem is brought on only by exercise.

Breathing hard and fast causes water to evaporate rapidly from the breathing tubes, causing their linings to cool. As a result, the tubes constrict and fill with mucus.

Exercise-induced asthma is most severe in the winter, when its victims breathe cold, dry air. Runners are especially susceptible. Swimmers are least susceptible because they breathe the warm, moist air of the pool environment.

People subject to exercise-induced asthmas may be able to exercise without symptoms for eight to 12 minutes. Then they may start to cough and become short of breath. The symptoms can continue for several minutes to an hour after the person stops exercising.

The symptoms of exercise-induced asthma can be avoided if you use a special inhaler, such as Maxair, Ventolin or Proventil, prescribed by your doctor. Take two puffs just before you exercise.

You also can wear a scarf covering your nose to warm the cold air before you inhale it. Or you can buy a face mask designed for cold weather. These are made with a flap that opens when you breathe out. Check at sporting goods stores.


Q: Is it OK to continue to work out when I have a cold? If I exercise, will it take longer to get well?

A: Most colds are caused by viruses. There is no medical evidence that moderate exercise will make your cold symptoms worse or increase your recovery time. Complete bed rest also does not seem to improve recovery time.

However, it's probably a good idea to take a break from your exercise routine when you have a cold, especially if you have a fever or your muscles ache.

When you exercise, your body temperature rises. If you already have a fever, your temperature will go even higher, forcing your heart to work harder to keep you from overheating. In some extreme cases, the heart muscle can be affected and may develop an irregular heartbeat.

Some cold viruses can affect your muscles, making them ache. Exercising when your muscles already hurt increases your zTC chance of injuring those muscles.

If you still want to exercise with a cold, be sure to start out at a slower pace, since colds always drain you of strength and endurance. The best advice is to take a few days off.

Q: Does taking corn oil prevent heart attacks?

A: There's no evidence anywhere that taking corn oil prevents heart attacks, and there is considerable evidence that taking too much can harm you.

Taking extra fat of any kind, including the polyunsaturated fat in corn oil, can increase your chances of a heart attack.

And taking extra polyunsaturated fat can harm you in other ways. Large doses increase the chances of developing cancers of the uterus, breast, prostate, colon and gall bladder. Too much also can suppress your immunity and make you more vulnerable to infections. They also can cause gall stones.

If you have an elevated cholesterol level and want to lower your cholesterol level and protect yourself from a heart attack, reduce your intake of all fats.

Dr. Mirkin is a practicing physician in Silver Spring specializing in sports medicine and nutrition.

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