Does cold weather affect your breathing?
24th November, 2023

As the temperatures drop and the skies darken, we begin to see a dramatic spike in illness. When it’s cold outside, we all feel sorry for ourselves: a runny nose, cold cheeks, a stubborn cough. However, these are easily fixed with a warm drink and a good night’s sleep. What we don’t see, is the effect the cold weather has on those already suffering with illness. At this time of year, we begin to see how pre-existing illness can worsen, specifically illnesses which affect breathing and respiration.

For some, the cold, crisp weather is bliss; for others the cold, crisp weather is like a curse and is dreaded all year long. Although the weather and the air may feel fresh, it can make breathing difficult for those with respiratory problems. The drop in temperature can cause the windpipe to narrow towards the top, creating that horrible dry, scratchy feeling we have all experienced once. However, constantly dealing with this can cause anxiety when facing the struggle to breathe through it.

There are many people out there dreading this time of year: those with asthma, COPD, emphysema or just any pulmonary illness. Breathlessness is a big target for these people, a common symptom of all illnesses guaranteed to worsen with the cold weather. However, there are simple, yet effective steps you can take this autumn and winter to relieve the feeling of breathlessness.

Fans. We may normally associate them with heat and sun and hot days, but they have alternate uses that mean we can use them all year round. A mini, hand-held fan may be the answer to many people’s problems. Even still, they might make a cute accessory this winter.

Placing a fan near your face when feeling the effects of breathlessness hit can help to ease the feeling. The slight draft of air helps to encourage increased air flow, consequently reducing the feeling of need. It is the physiological impact of this that reduces breathlessness. The movement of air across the front of your face- mouth, nose, and chin- reduces the feeling dramatically. This way, you believe you have more control over your breathing, subsequently making the thought a reality.


To feel the full effect, there are specific things you can do when using a fan for breathlessness, this includes:

By doing this, you should feel the effects within a few minutes and soon realise how easy it can be when you buy a handheld fan. Don’t let the cold weather take over you this winter and ensure you are able to take control over your breathing whenever and wherever. What’s even better, is that the handheld fans come in an array of colour, so you can be basic, or you can be trendy with whatever colour you chose to have.


For more information on illnesses that can cause breathlessness or breathing difficulties, check out this illustration by NHS Highlands: NHS Highland Respiratory Resource Hub

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