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How to keep warm in freezing weather? Breathe through your nose

Finland’s current cold snap has seen temperatures plunge to -20 and below—but life still goes on as normally as it can. Staying warm in these conditions is no mean feat, but breathing correctly can help keep the cold at bay.

Kaksi naista ja lapsi liukumäessä pakkasella
Kids still play outdoors in Finland, even when the temperature dips well below zero. Image: Ville Välimäki / Yle

Outdoor activities don’t stop in Finland just because it’s cold—and this week it really is quite cold. There is no need to snuggle up indoors however, so long as you dress warmly enough and follow a few rules to ensure the big freeze doesn’t get to you.

Doctor Tuomas Rosberg of Hämeenlinna Central Hospital has advice that any Finnish grandmother would agree with, but he starts with one tip to keep the lungs warm.

"The nose’s natural task is to warm air as it is taken in," said Rosberg. "Air taken in through the mouth irritates the throat more."

The mucous membrane helps to act as a filter for air as it comes in, says Rosberg, with impurities left in the membrane. The air warms up and takes on moisture there, as part of the body’s natural effort to prevent the breathing system from drying out.

Those suffering from respiratory illnesses such as asthma, however, might have more difficulty in the extreme cold. Those individuals are advised to ensure they have a scarf or some other protection in front of their nose when breathing in very cold air, according to Heini Kuoppamäki of the Kanta-Häme branch of Hengitys ry, an association for people with respiratory illnesses.

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