NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Freezing weather can make some common ailments even worse and frigid conditions can also reveal more serious health problems.
Many people who start wheezing or have trouble filling their lungs when they draw a breath of really cold air, could be feeling the first signs of respiratory disease.
"Runners for example, even very healthy people who do quite a bit of spring of summer running… when the temperatures get colder they'll notice their performance will decrease," explained Dr. Gilberto Salazar, an emergency physician and educator with Parkland Hospital and UT Southwestern Medical Center. "They'll stop what they're doing, because they're so short of breath. And that may be the first indication that you're very sensitive to the cold."
You might have heard some people say they can feel the cold weather in their bones -- well it's true. And if you think you're feeling pain a lot more intensely during the cold Salazar says agrees it's not your imagination. "Those folks who have arthritis and especially folks who have had prior surgeries in their joints, hip replacements, knee replacements… those folks can experience quite a bit of discomfort this time of year."
The joint pain usually doesn't require a trip to the emergency room -- a heating pad generally makes things better.
Artic-like weather can also trigger breathing problems. In fact, Dr. Salazar says many people first discover they have asthma during cold weather. "Folks with respiratory illness, specifically asthma and some of the obstructive (pulmonary) diseases like COPD for example, the cold can indeed cause airway constriction."
The doctor advises that anyone who already has been diagnosed with the condition use their emergency inhaler. Other people who have extended fits of wheezing after breathing cold air should check with their doctor.
Cold weather can also put extra strain on your heart. Experts advise that if you have heart disease or high blood pressure, to follow your doctor's advice about exercising or working in the cold. Anyone else doing chores outside should dress warmly in layers of clothing and boots that are insulated, work slowly and take frequent breaks.
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