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 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 windchills 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 artic 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 by breathing under control.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


View Comments (6)
  • scasewv53
    7 days ago

    Cold air is a big trigger for me. Even if I use my rescue inhaler ahead of time, bundle up, and cover my mouth and noses my doctor recommended, I end up coughing and becoming short of breath if I try to exert myself when it’s cold outside. So, I’m cooped up inside a lot, have to go to the gym for exercise. I love to walk outdoors, so winters are hard, but I’m always so happy when spring comes.

  • TracyLee
    5 days ago

    scasewv53, One thing that helps when I get that cooped up feeling is to stream nature videos while I am on my elliptical. I always feel a little better afterwards.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    5 days ago

    Hi TracyLee and thanks for your post and sharing what works for you when you are feeling ‘cooped’ up. We appreciate you input. Leon (site moderator)

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    6 days ago

    Hi scasewv53 and thanks for your post. We hear you! It certainly isn’t fun being cooped up indoors. But, I’m sure you would rather that then run the risk of an attack cause by this frigid weather should you decide to go outdoors! Like you, I’m looking forward to spring! Leon (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    1 week ago

    I used my rescue inhaler more than usual during the Polar Vortex. Never had to call my doctor as the inhaler did the trick. Even covering my face I still had some wheezing.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    1 week ago

    Hi Shellzoo and thanks for this post. Glad to hear you were successful during this polar vortex in your state. Sometimes, even using a scarf as a barrier for your upper airway during the frigid temperatures, can be unsuccessful. It’s just too cold! You’re fortunate the rescue inhalers did the trick this time! Leon (site moderator)

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