Cold air-induced late-phase bronchoconstriction in horses

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Reason for performing study:

Inspired air is warmed to body temperature and fully humidified by the upper airway mucosa under normal resting conditions. This conditioning process may not be completed by the upper airways during conditions of increased minute ventilation or when the inspired air is unusually cold, resulting in cooling and desiccation of lower respiratory surfaces. Excess heat and water loss from intrapulmonary airways is believed to be the provocative stimulus for exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (occurring immediately after exercise) and associated late phase airway obstruction (occurring a few hours after exercise).


Exercise while breathing cold air results in airway obstruction in horses.


Eight healthy horses performed a 15 min submaximal exercise challenge in a random crossover design. Independent variable was inspired air temperature during the challenge (25 or -5°C). The dependent variables were total respiratory impedance, resistance, and reactance at 5, 24 and 48 h post exercise challenge, expressed as a percentage of the prechallenge baseline.


No significant effect of inspired air temperature was found on any respiratory mechanical parameter 5 h after exercise challenge. However, cold inspired air was associated with higher respiratory impedance and resistance 48 h after the exercise challenges.


These findings support the hypothesis that submaximal exercise while breathing subfreezing air can adversely affect respiratory mechanical properties in normal horses. However, the timecourse for development of abnormal respiratory mechanical properties is longer than that reported in other mammals.

Clinical relevance:

Exercise in cold weather may be a common cause of lower airway disease in horses.

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