Caring for your health when you’re living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) takes some forethought. Diet and exercise are key considerations, of course, and you may have to think a little more about the weather and how to deal with it. For example, breathing can become more difficult when it's cold. These tips from the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (where extreme temperature shifts are the norm) can help you weather the winter, wherever you live.
Cold Air’s Effects
It’s not just your imagination—the frosty air causes a reaction in your breathing, according to the Respiratory Health Association. Your airway may tighten, allowing less air to get to your lungs. Being short of breath and coughing may occur more often when it's cold. (Hot, humid air has its challenges, as well.) You may produce more phlegm, too. Indoor and outdoor pollutants can also trigger airway irritation.
Preparing for Winter Weather
If you are living with COPD, always prepare ahead of time to get ready for cold air and flu season. You should also make plans for winter hazards such as storms, depending on where you live. Take these steps to prepare or to help your loved one prepare:
- If you have COPD or a loved one suffers from the disease, get a flu shot every year, after speaking with your doctor to make sure it is the best option for you. Those living with COPD are more vulnerable to complications, such as viral pneumonia.
- Dress for the weather. Wear a scarf or a face mask to cover your nose and mouth.
- Exercise and pursue leisure activities inside when possible.
- Check your local air-quality information regularly. Your state’s Environmental Protection Agency and local news broadcasts provide air-quality information.
- If you have big outdoor plans on a bad air-quality day or an especially frigid one, reschedule if you can.
- If you live alone, arrange for someone to check in with you daily. Don’t become isolated just because bad weather is keeping you inside.
- Keep a supply of nonperishable food in the house, in case you can't go out for groceries.
- Be sure your furnace is ready for winter, too. Have your local furnace expert give your home heating system a tune-up so any problems can be corrected before winter sets in.
For more resources, visit Do More With Oxygen. You’ll find expert advice and tips from a community of people who know just what you’re going through. Let their experiences and knowledge help you take care of your health, maintain your independence and improve your life with COPD.
If you choose to travel to warm weather instead of enduring the cold, download this helpful guide, "Traveling with Oxygen Made Easy.”
Photo credit: The Style PA