Surviving My First Arctic Blast

I have written before about how I came to live in the Midwest from Southern California almost two years ago. Both my husband and I were born and raised in SoCal so moving with our children to the Midwest was quite a change, especially when it comes to the weather. 

Last winter was my first experience actually living somewhere it snows. Growing up, I went on yearly trips to the California mountains to ski so it wasn’t my first experience with snow, however, it was my first experience living and driving in it. Thankfully last winter was a relatively mild one, so I could ease myself into it, so to speak. 

This year has been a whole other story. One thing that I have been told since moving here is “if you don’t like the weather just wait fifteen minutes.” This is SO TRUE. We didn’t get our first “real snow” until January. And even then it all melted within a few days. The back and forth weather has been a killer for my lungs.  We have also seen a surge of visits to the ER where I work of people with lung issues who are also having struggles due to the weather.

Record shattering cold weather

Two weeks ago I started seeing news reports warning of a potentially record-shattering arctic blast that was heading down from the far north regions of the arctic circle. Temperatures well below 0 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chills in the -40 to -60 degree range.  Temperatures I had never felt before in my entire life. Temperatures with the windchill I couldn’t even imagine. 

While most of the state and rest of the upper Midwest region pretty much completely shut down ahead of the freezing and very real dangerous temperatures, I still had to go to work at the hospital during both of the forecasted coldest days of the arctic blast. I am very thankful to live close to my hospital so I wouldn’t have to travel far. 

The moment I stepped out my front door, even with a scarf covering my mouth and nose, the temperature literally took my breath away. It was -49 degrees with the windchill. Immediately I could feel my lungs seize up and it was so hard to breathe and my chest hurt. I am very thankful for my husband who had started my car prior to me going outside so it was nice and toasty warm when I got in it. I have learned a lot about extreme temperatures this winter and wanted to share two things that I found to be very useful.

Helpful cold weather preparations

Bundle up!

It is absolutely imperative to cover your mouth and nose when going outside in the cold. If you have a face mask, that’s even better. A scarf or mask will warm and add humidity to the air as you breathe it in. Try to breathe in your nose vs your mouth, as this will also help to warm and add humidity to the air. Dress in multiple layers to help keep as warm as possible.

Have your rescue inhaler handy

While avoiding the outdoors is preferred it is not always practical. If you must go outdoors have your inhaler with you. Using your inhaler before going outside can also help immensely. Follow your asthma action plan if you start to run into trouble with your breathing and be sure to stay in communication with your doctor according to your plan.

We are slated to have quite a warm-up in my neck of the woods. A 105-degree temperature swing in only five days. My lungs can feel it and I am finding myself referring to my own action plan to help keep my breathing under control.


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