More News on Track Hack

In my previous article, “What the Heck Is Hack?” I explained what the “hack” or cough is, that competitive stair climbers are often familiar with, but I stumbled across an article from Dr. Mercola that had some new information in it relating to this condition.

I have already mentioned that this condition is caused by air moving over the throat so rapidly that it causes erosion of the throat surfaces and membranes. The rapid air movement is of course due to the extreme heavy and deep breathing caused by running stairs. The reason the breathing is so much heavier than most other sports is because of the anaerobic nature of it due to the extreme vertical component unique to the sport of tower running.

Dry air makes it worse and so does cold air, but the reason cold air does is because that is usually also dry air since cold air can’t hold as much moisture as dry air. The majority of our US races are in cold air, since our summer tends to be our “off season,” so this is particularly interesting to us and our sport here in the USA.

Dr. Mercola also brings up an interesting point: that this condition can make you more susceptible to catching a cold or other respiratory illness. I rarely get sick, but if I do, it’s almost always after a stair race. This could be an explanation why, so read on!

In his article, Dr. Mercola states (underlines are my emphasis added):

During the winter months, heaters and cold temperatures may lead to dry air with low humidity. This dry air can lead to dry skin, irritated sinuses and throat, and itchy eyes.

Over time, exposure to low humidity can dry out and inflame the mucous membrane lining your respiratory tract. When this natural barrier is no longer working properly, it increases your risk of colds, the flu, and other infections. Further, in low humidity certain viruses may be able to survive longer, further increasing your risk of contracting an infection.

For instance, one study found that flu viruses survive longer, and spread more easily, when humidity levels are low.1 Nasal congestion may also be related to the temperature and humidity of inhaled air — perhaps more than any other variable, according to one study.2

The authors of the study suggested that the interaction between temperature and humidity influence “nasal cooling” as the air moves through your nasal cavity. This nasal cooling is detected by “sensors” inside your nose, which stimulate the sensation of airflow being either easy or obstructed, with cooler air resulting in feelings of less obstruction.

While high humidity can trigger nasal congestion, very dry air (i.e. low humidity) is also known to increase feelings of congestion because drying out your sinus membranes can irritate them further. So depending on your individual circumstances, if the air in your home is excessively dry, then increasing the humidity may help.

This is especially true in the winter and in dry environments where humidity levels frequently drop below 10 percent. According to research published inEnvironmental Health Perspectives,4 maintaining the proper humidity levels may help to lower rates of respiratory infections and allergies:

The majority of adverse health effects caused by relative humidity would be minimized by maintaining indoor levels between 40 and 60%. This would require humidification during winter in areas with cold winter climates. Humidification should preferably use evaporative or steam humidifiers, as cool mist humidifiers can disseminate aerosols contaminated with allergens.”

[-] Sources and References

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