With temperatures frequently dipping below freezing, it appears that winter has arrived early this year. For some, this is a minor inconvenience that means leaving the house slightly early to de-ice the car and squabbling over the thermostat at work.
However, for COPD sufferers, the arrival of winter weather can lead to an exasperation of symptoms and can be an extremely uncomfortable period of the year. The effects of cold air on COPD sufferers include breathlessness and increasing wheezing. This is because cold air can actually narrow the airways.
Add in that other winter staple, common cold and flu, and it’s easy to see why winter can be quite a scary time for a COPD sufferer. However, the arrival of bitter winter days doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to stay indoors, even if you require regular oxygen therapy via a portable oxygen concentrator. Here are a few tips to avoid the ill effects of cold weather on COPD.
Wrap Up Warm
It’s something we’re all told as we grow up, but wrapping up warm is vital in the winter months – especially if you suffer from COPD. As the immune system doesn’t work as well at colder temperatures (hence why so many people get ill in the winter), keeping your body temperature high is important for both your comfort and your health.
Cover Up Your Nose and Mouth
Cold air can be irritating to the airways and makes it harder to breath, so it’s important to try and humidify the air you breathe in. Wear a scarf and cover up your nose and mouth with it; breathing air through the thick material will make it warmer and thus less irritating to the airways. It also helps to breathe through your nose through your mouth, as this also warms the air you take in.
Get Your Flu Jab and Avoid the Common Cold
The flu or a common cold is a mild irritant to most but can be quite dangerous for sufferers of COPD. Both can lead to an exacerbation of COPD symptoms and can even lead to serious illnesses such as pneumonia.
COPD sufferers qualify for a free flu jab; it is vitally important to have this injection every year without fail. Avoid catching the common cold by sticking to small crowds of people rather than potentially infection-strewn large gatherings and practising good hygiene by regularly washing your hands.
Avoid Wood Fireplaces
The prospect of getting home and sitting in front of an open fire is one that many people look forward to in cold conditions, but the smoke generated by wood fireplaces and other such heating devices can lead to breathlessness and other health complications in those with COPD.
However, it is still important to keep your home warm in order to ward off the ill effects of cold air on breathing. Instead of using wood-burning fires, use electric alternatives and make sure they are circulating warm air around your home efficiently.
Use Your Bronchodilator
If you have been prescribed with a Bronchodilator, it’s important to use it before you leave the house. Using your Bronchodilator will relax your airways and should go some way towards helping you avoid breathlessness in adverse conditions.
Remember to keep in regular contact with your GP over the course of the winter months; regular monitoring of your condition can help negate any potential exacerbations in the future. Also remember that the tips outlined in this post are general; ask your GP for personal advice on how best to cope with COPD in cold conditions.