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Can extreme cold damage your lungs? Get answers from an expert who studies the lungs of winter athletes

When arctic blasts plummet temperatures, stepping outside can be dangerous. In this Health Fusion episode, Viv Williams talks to a researcher about what intensely cold air could do to anyone's lungs.

Black labs on a snowy country road
Extreme cold exposure can be dangerous for your health.
Viv Williams / Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER — When I decided to explore what cold exposure might do to your lungs, I looked to the north to Alberta, Canada. On the day I interviewed Dr. Michael Kennedy about cold exposure and lung health, it was minus 27 degrees Fahrenheit outside of his office window. This guy knows about cold.

Kennedy, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation at the University of Alberta, is a trained exercise physiologist and cross country skier. And for many years, he traveled with athletes as a ski race technician. He's seen what exercising in extreme cold can do to athletes' lungs.

"I don't want to scare people," Kennedy said. "But a large number of ex-cross-country ski racers, especially females, have raced in some sort of cold weather race where that specific event has changed their lung health forever."

How cold is too cold? Kennedy's research shows that 5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 15 Celsius) may be the threshold. And this applies to anyone of any age who is spending active time outside.

Watch or listen to this podcast as Kennedy explains the risks of being outside in extreme cold and how to protect your lungs.



Follow the  Health Fusion podcast on  Apple,   Spotify and  Google podcasts. For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at  vwilliams@newsmd.com. Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

Opinion by Viv Williams
Viv Williams hosts the NewsMD podcast and column, "Health Fusion." She is an Emmy (and other) award-winning health and medical reporter whose stories have run on TV, digital and newspaper outlets nationwide. Viv is passionate about boosting people's health and happiness by helping them access credible, reliable and research-based health information from top experts. She regularly interviews experts and patients from leading medical institutions, such as Mayo Clinic.
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