Cold Air Sensation When I Inhale (Asthma, Extreme Workout, Or Empty Nose Syndrome?)

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If you’re feeling a cold sensation when inhaling air, it could be due to an apparent reason, such as being in an extremely cold environment or a medical issue. Breathing in a cold temperature can bring about a cold sensation and make our throat dry and our chest tighten. The cold weather might trigger the symptoms even more if you have asthma. Doing an intense workout or working out in cold weather can bring the same sensation. Empty nose syndrome is a rare condition of which a cold feeling is one of the signs. If you have other problematic signs, they could signal other medical issues.

Breathing is a natural phenomenon that we don’t need to think about even though we do this activity 24/7. As interesting as it is, even the slightest change or disturbance in our breathing can make us take notice of it.

When you usually breathe, notice how the air you inhale is warm, and the one you exhale is even warmer. But if this oxygen being inhaled feels like cold air, something isn’t right.

There could be various reasons why the air you’re inhaling feels cold in your nose, throat, and lungs, and it can be due to an environmental change or even a medical condition. Let’s explore these various possibilities.

Cold sensation due to environmental change

A young woman is standing outside in the cold winter weather, wearing a jacket and trying to blow hot air from her mouth on to her cold fingers.

The most common reason behind this sensation in your body, be it your lungs, nose, or throat, is due to inhaling cold air.

Most people don’t understand how inhaling normal air in the cold differs from inhaling the same air during any other season. It’s because cold air is dry and our body isn’t used to it.

The best way for our body to not feel this cold sensation is to maintain moistness in the air and nasal passage, which can be achieved when we inhale air that isn’t cold.

Cold air not only ends up making us feel a cold sensation but can be so harmful that it almost feels like a burning sensation.

It irritates our lungs and airways and can lead to tightness and shortness of breath.

Sometimes breathing cold air can be too much for our body and nasal passage that we might even end up with a nose bleed.

What to do

  1. Avoid breathing through your mouth when outside during the winter months. It will make the situation even worse. Breathing through your nose will ensure protection as it helps convert the air to a warmer temperature until it reaches your lungs.
  2. Be prepared for the temperature and ensure you have enough warm clothes like a scarf, gloves, hat, and other warm clothes. Try covering your neck and even wrap a single layer around your face like a mask to filter the cold air when breathing.
  3. The best thing is to know your body to avoid any further complications. If you know you don’t handle cold temperatures well, do not go outside for a long time and avoid any physical activities outside.
  4. If you have any medical conditions related to breathing or your lungs and nasal passage, avoid cold temperature as much as possible.

Cold sensation due to asthma

Breathing cold air can also be harmful to a person who has asthma. It’s because cold air is dry in nature, and it is difficult for the body to warm it compared to normal air.

This can cause chest tightening, aching, and a cold sensation in your body. The dry air can leave the nasal passageway dry, triggering an asthma attack.

If you feel the symptoms such as chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, a sensation of tightness in the chest, wheezing, and cold, then it’s an indication of an issue.

For people with asthma, these can become more severe.

Cold air is not so much of an issue as the dryness factor that comes with cold temperature, causing these symptoms to appear.

What to do

  1. Keeping a short-acting inhaler handy before going outside is a preventive measure for someone already diagnosed with asthma. If you aren’t diagnosed yet and experience these symptoms for the first time, it’s best to get inside to a warmer temperature. Breathing in there for a couple of minutes will automatically solve the issue.
  2. Warm up yourself before going outside. Do a few stretches and breathing exercises before entering a cold environment.
  3. Avoid exercising outside.
  4. Cover yourself up adequately.
  5. Breathe through your nose only.

Cold sensation due to workout

A young woman is stretching outside before going on a run during a cold winter morning

A high-intensity workout can make a person feel like they’re breathing cold air even though they might be working out at a moderate temperature.

The more intense workouts you do, the more pressure you put on your lungs and nasal passage. The air can feel like you’re breathing cold air, and it might even cause a chest tightening and pain.

This gets even more difficult and prominent when working out in cold weather. If you’re going out for a run in cold temperature, you’ll notice the symptoms becoming much more severe.

What to do

  1. If you’re doing a high-intensity workout, slow down for a few minutes and return to normal breathing.
  2. Always breathe through your nose. Breathing through your mouth can worsen the condition and further dry your throat and nasal passage.
  3. Avoid working out in cold weather. But if you do, then don’t go inside immediately as it can further dry up your lungs and airway. First, let your breathing slow down and once you’ve returned to normal breathing, go back inside.

Cold sensation due to empty nose syndrome

Empty nose syndrome is quite rare but affects the nose and nasal passage of a person, leading to various symptoms.

While one of the symptoms can be a feeling of cold sensation when inhaling, there could be other symptoms such as:

  • Feeling the inhaled air is too much
  • The inhaled air is too dry or too cold
  • Feeling nasal obstruction even though the nose is clear
  • Nasal bleeding
  • Lack of sensation of breathing
  • Extreme dryness or crusting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of mucus
  • Not being able to breathe
  • Inflammation and pain
  • A diminished sense of taste or smell
  • Sleep disorders

There’s no definitive diagnosis for this syndrome, and it’s also rare, but it could be caused by a nasal surgery such as a turbinectomy.

What to do

There’s no simple solution to this syndrome, but there are ways to manage it. You can make them a part of your lifestyle and learn to live with them to lead a better lifestyle without getting affected.

  1. Using antibiotic nasal sprays and doing nasal irrigations such as with a neti pot prove helpful.
  2. Using a humidifier.
  3. Sleeping with a CPAP machine that helps to breathe.
  4. Living in a warm and humid environment.
  5. Eating hot soups and liquid.

With this kind of syndrome, which doesn’t have a permanent solution yet, it’s best to discuss the treatment options with your doctor to find the best-suited solution for yourself.

FAQs

Why does my nose feel like I’m breathing in cold air?

When the outside weather is too cold, the air breathed can feel too cold, and it can be challenging for those with respiratory issues or breathing problems like asthma.

It could also result in a cold nose and feet, and hands. That’s because there’s reduced blood flow to these body parts.

It could be a normal issue or result from a medical issue like thyroid, Raynaud’s phenomenon, heart condition, high blood sugar, or other health issues.

Why does the air feel sharp when I breathe?

You might feel a sharp pain when breathing in, sometimes due to cold air or an intense workout.

When the air is cold, our blood vessels and arteries narrow to keep the heat inside our bodies.

The cold air is dry, making our air passageway and lungs feel dry and tightened. This can cause a feeling of restriction when intaking air and might feel like sharp chest pain.

Can anxiety cause cold sensations in the chest?

Anxiety has several symptoms and signs, one of which is feeling a cold sensation in the chest and the whole body. But that doesn’t happen when breathing but happens anytime a person has anxiety.

It’s related or confusing with some other signs or symptoms such as feeling sensitive to cold, fear causing chills, poor circulation, and related to sweating.

To summarise

A cold sensation can be felt when inhaling due to multiple reasons. However, the cold temperature is the number one reason for feeling this sensation.

For someone with a medical issue related to breathing like asthma, it becomes even worse to deal with such symptoms.

The best thing is to avoid stress, avoid working out in cold weather outside, and remain conscious of other signs.

Saumya Malik
I'm an ardent follower of everything good for the health and wellness of body and mind. I am passionate about providing effective solutions to general health and mental well-being issues and wants to help people achieve the same. When I'm not writing, you can find me curled up with a good book in a corner or cooking as a form of good mental therapy.
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