Recently, one of my readers asked:
I find the cold air hurts my throat/nose a little (when running outside). Is it ok to cover my mouth with a scarf or is breathing in exhaled air a bad idea?
This is an excellent question!
Is it Safe to Run with a Scarf?
A neck warmer/scarf helps to warm the oxygen you breathe as you inhale, but what happens when you exhale? Do you then inhale the carbon dioxide you just exhaled back in if your wearing a neck warmer/scarf? Thankfully the answer is no. When you exhale, you exhale forcibly enough that most of the carbon dioxide pushes past into the ambient air.
I find that when I’m running it doesn’t take my lungs very long to adjust to the cold air temperature, and after approximately five minutes of running I’m warm enough to slide my scarf down off of my mouth. I would presume that this is because my lungs have gotten over the shock of the cold air, and that the exercise I’m doing has caused my core body temperature to rise up enough to further assist my air passages with warming the air that I breathe in.
Lisa, I’ve been running outside in the cold winter for 10 years with my mouth covered by my neck warmer and thus far no harm has come to me – I’m living proof that this is very safe, and is an excellent way to warm the air before you breathe it in. Happy running!
Please send any questions you’d like answered to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Janice Smith, B.Sc (Kin), ATTH obtained her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and her Certificate in Athletic Therapy from York University in Toronto, ON Canada. She has an extensive background treating the injuries of athletes having worked with the York University Football, Volleyball and Water Polo teams. She is an avid runner–running several full and half marathons in addition to completing several triathlons. She has coached several Learn-to-run, 10K and half-marathon clinics. She works full-time and she is a mom of three dynamic little girls.