How Athletes Can Control Breathing Difficulties During Winter Workouts

Cold winter weather can make exercise more difficult. This is especially true for people with asthma. It’s estimated that 300 million people worldwide are living with asthma, according to the World Health Organization. At least 15 to 25 percent of athletes have asthma symptoms but haven’t been diagnosed with the disorder. However, it’s not only asthmatics who have increased difficulty with winter sports.

Exercising in the Winter

Typically, people breathe through their nose, which allows the air to be warmed and humidified before reaching the lungs. When exercising, people are more likely to breathe through their mouths due to the increased need for oxygen. This means cold, dry air reaches the lungs more quickly, which can cause irritation and make it more difficult to breathe. Breathing through the mouth also means that air isn’t filtered by cilia in the nose before reaching the lungs, so there may be a higher level of pollen or other pollutants.

Whether or not a person has a diagnosed case of exercise-induced asthma, their athletic performance may be hindered by exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). Within five to twenty minutes of exercising, people with EIB experience asthma symptoms like wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

Diagnosis and Treatment

It’s common for athletes to feel that they need to push through the pain but breathing problems can be serious. It’s best to consult a doctor as soon as symptoms present. Whether you exercise outdoors for pleasure or competition, it’s possible to keep symptoms under control so you can still enjoy your winter workouts. A medical professional can help formulate a plan to manage the symptoms. This may include the use of an inhaler.

For your own safety, here are a few steps to take during winter workouts if you’re prone to breathing difficulties:

  • Always have access to a phone in case of respiratory distress. A great alternative would be to exercise with a friend, so you have support in the event of an emergency.
  • Protect your airway by covering your nose and mouth with a scarf or mask during outdoor exercise. This increases the level of moisture in the air you breathe in.
  • Opt for indoor exercise if symptoms persist. It may also help to make outdoor exercises shorter and less vigorous.
  • Report any symptom changes to your doctor.


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Cases of Black Lung Disease Increasing Nationwide

Black lung disease is a respiratory disorder caused by breathing coal mine dust. The disease is also called coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP). The prevalence of black lung disease has increased since 2012, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Current statistics report one in ten coal miners who worked in coal mines for 25 years or more have been diagnosed with black lung.Cases of Black Lung Disease Increasing Nationwide

Black Lung Disease: Causes and History

In 1969, Congress passed the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, making the elimination of black lung a national goal. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has been tracking black lung disease in miners since the 1970s through their Coal Workers Health Surveillance Program. The program collects data and offers periodic chest x-rays to detect the disease early.

In the late 1990s, black lung disease dropped to the lowest level on record. However, since 2000, the disease has been increasing throughout the nation, especially in the Appalachian area. Coal miners in the Appalachian region are more likely to be affected than workers elsewhere in the U.S. Currently, one in five workers from central Appalachia have been diagnosed with the disease.

Simple vs Complicated Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis

Coal miners are susceptible to either a mild or severe case of CWP.

  • Complicated CWP, also known as Progressive Massive Fibrosis (PMF), is diagnosed when a patient’s lungs are severely scarred due to inhaling large amount of coal dust for a longer period of time.
  • Simple CWP is the milder diagnosis. This means the lungs have less severe spots or scar tissues from coal dust particles.

Both types of the disease present similar symptoms. They include coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness. It often takes decades for the disease to develop, so many people don’t have symptoms until after they retire.

CWP Diagnosis and Treatment

Most CWP patients are over the age of 50 when they are diagnosed. During diagnosis, a doctor will take a detailed history to assess the patient’s exposure to coal dust. They will also order a chest x-ray or a CT scan. The patient may be asked to complete a pulmonary function test to show how well the lungs are working.

Black lung treatments can ease symptoms, but there is no cure for the disease. Since breathing coal mine dust is the only cause, the disease is highly preventable through dust control methods and proper protection to reduce exposure.

Early detection is also key to managing the disease. Current and retired coal miners should monitor their health regularly and consult their doctor if they notice respiratory symptoms.

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Obesity Strongly Linked to COPD in Non-Smokers

An estimated 15 million Americans live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and it is the third leading cause of death in the United States. The most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoking; however, 23 percent of COPD patients have never smoked. New research indicates that obesity may be one contributing factor to those idiopathic cases of COPD.Obesity Strongly Linked to COPD in Non-Smokers

A study, published in the Journal of Obesity, was led by researchers at the University of Toronto to research the relationship between COPD and obesity in nonsmokers. The study included 76,004 women and 37,618 men aged 50 and older who had never smoked. They were categorized as being normal weight, overweight or with one of three classes of obesity.

Researchers discovered a higher prevalence of COPD in participants with higher BMIs. For example, women with class I or II obesity were twice as likely to have COPD than women of normal weight. This was still the case after statistically adjusting the results for factors like age, education and income, all of which have potential to cause COPD.

Explaining the Complex Relationship

There are three possible explanations for the link between obesity and COPD:

  • Obesity impairs diaphragm movement and compresses walls of the chest
  • Inflammation associated with obesity causes or worsens COPD
  • COPD predisposes patients to obesity because the symptoms result in decreased mobility

Although further research is needed to provide more insight into the correlation between obesity and COPD, the study was an important step in analyzing the cause of COPD in patients who have never smoked.

This study provided further evidence of obesity and COPD’s complex relationship. Previous research indicated that obesity has a protective effect on late-stage COPD. Patients who are underweight have a higher risk of dying from COPD than someone who is obese or average weight. However, both diseases can lead to further complications and worsened overall health.

Prevention and Treatment

Exercise is encouraged for COPD patients, especially those who are overweight or obese. For safety, it’s best to start with an exercise regimen guided by a medical professional.

It’s also important for healthcare professionals to routinely screen obese patients for COPD, even when they have no history of smoking.


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Inhaled Chemotherapy: A Promising Treatment for Lung Cancer

Inhaled Chemotherapy: A Promising Treatment for Lung CancerGlobally, lung cancer is responsible for more than 1.7 million deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization. Although cancer treatments have become increasingly personalized and precise in recent years, current treatments still expose large portions of a patient’s body to toxicity. Therefore, traditional treatment options like radiation and chemotherapy often lead to unpleasant side effects.

For decades, researchers have successfully developed inhaled treatments for ailments like asthma, chronic bronchitis, COPD and emphysema. Because pulmonary drug delivery is the standard treatment for many lung diseases, it’s possible that the same treatment delivery system may someday be applicable for treating lung cancer.

Researchers are only in the beginning stages of exploring this new treatment possibility, but their efforts have shown promising results. About a decade ago, clinical trials started to examine the use of anticancer compounds designed for inhalation. These trials demonstrated moderate results, and they showed reduced toxicity in tissues that weren’t targeted for cancer treatment. This means a greater number of compounds could be safely delivered to lungs while killing cancer cells without extensive damage to healthy cells in other parts of the body.

As of 2018, anti-sense oligonucleotides (ASO) and protein therapies are being developed and used in clinical trials. The therapies use nanocarriers that are designed and tested by researchers, so they can find the optimal carriers for delivering anticancer drugs to the lungs. While research for this treatment is still in the early stages, it has been demonstrated that lipid-based nanocarriers are most suitable to effectively treat lung cancer.

This technology won’t be available anytime soon, but recent progress is still a great testament to the continuous advancement of lung cancer treatment. In the future, there is a good possibility that inhaled treatments could be used to successfully treat lung disease. These treatments could lead to better patient compliance and a higher percentage of successful outcomes.


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Tips for Recovering from Jet Lag

Tips for Recovering from Jet LagTraveling for your dream vacation or an important business trip often requires flying to different time zones. Our bodies can have trouble adjusting, especially when we cross three or more time zones in one day. This results in circadian desynchrony, a phenomenon more commonly known as jet lag.

In the past, jet lag was merely considered a state of mind. Today, it is classified as one of the most common sleep disorders. Our circadian rhythm can be measured by certain biological conditions, including a distinct change in body temperature and plasma levels of hormones. Those conditions help our body determine when to sleep and when we should be awake.

The symptoms of jet lag vary by individual, but the most common include:

  • Exhaustion during the day
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort

As you can imagine, these symptoms will put a damper on any trip. Jet lag is also known to affect people after they return home from their travels.

No treatment can instantly shift a person’s circadian rhythm to align with a new time zone. However, taking certain steps before, during and after a trip can minimize the effect of jet lag.

Exposure to Sunlight

Circadian rhythms are influenced by sunlight. When traveling east, your biological clock falls behind. Exposing yourself to sunlight in the morning and avoiding bright light in the evening can aid in resetting your biological clock to your current environment. When traveling west, the opposite may be helpful because your biological clock will be ahead. Bright light and exercise in the evening can help you stay awake later and sleep longer.

Avoid Stimulants

Substances like alcohol and caffeine are stimulants that prevent sleep. Having a glass of wine with dinner may be tempting, but it can affect rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This can hinder mental recovery from jet lag. Instead, drink plenty of water and stay hydrated.


Melatonin is a hormone that your body produces naturally. It is also available as an over-the-counter option. It will not help the biological imbalance caused by jet lag, but it may help manage short-term insomnia when taken before bedtime.

Consult a Medical Professional

Seeking advice from a doctor before or after a trip is the best way to customize your recovery plan. They can recommend best practices, determine treatment options, and possibly prescribe medications to help with your transition.

At PCCMA, we specialize in treating circadian rhythm disorders like jet lag. To schedule an appointment, call us today at (717) 234-2561.


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