Cold Weather and COPD

October 12th, 2012 | Author: COPD Coach

Dear COPD Coach,

I live in a northern climate and it looks like winter is coming pretty quick.  Since I have only recently been diagnosed with COPD, what advice would you offer for staying healthy in the winter?  I have been doing a lot of walking when the weather is nice. What effect will this have trying to walk in cold weather? I have heard that it is harder with COPD

-Looking for some answers


Dear Looking,

Winter can indeed be difficult for many people with COPD, however “difficult” does not necessarily mean impossible — if you take certain precautions. Here


are some common sense tips that may help:

  1. Get a flu shot and make sure your pneumonia vaccination is  up-to-date. Getting the flu can cause an exacerbation (time when your COPD flares up and you experience difficulties). Each time you experience an exacerbation, additional damage to the lungs is possible. Many people with COPD have an already weakened immune system, which makes them more susceptible to flu and pneumonia
  2. Make sure that your furnace filters are clean, and have your furnace (and ductwork cleaned) to eliminate dust and reduce airborne contaminants.
  3. Make sure that you have adequate reserve food supplies, so that if the weather turns bad you will not be forced to go out when it may be dangerous to do so.
  4. Make sure your windows and doors are properly sealed to eliminate drafts.
  5. Maintain a daily indoor exercise routine. If outside exercise is difficult because of the cold, there are a variety of exercises you can do at home. Talk with your respiratory therapist about possible exercises. If you do not attend a pulmonary rehabilitation program check out our Big Fat Reference Guide ( for exercises you can do indoors. You might also consider purchasing a treadmill exercise bike
  6. Avoid exposing yourself to inclement weather when it’s not necessary to venture out
  7. Be very careful about exposure to other people who are ill. If it’s unavoidable that you will be exposed to other people who might be ill, wear a mask, and wash your hands with a good alcohol based anti-bacterial soap immediately and often.
  8. Invest in a good quality air cleaner (please see your previous ask the coach letter on air cleaners).
  9. Call your doctor and seek medical attention at the first sign of symptoms of infection such as increased shortness of breath, fatigue, wheezing or coughing, fever or chills.

Cold air is often a problem for many people with COPD and causes shortness of breath. Cold wind also causes problems. In both cases, a person with COPD will become fatigued quickly. If you must go out in cold weather, here are some tips that may help:

  1. Wear a scarf, mask and try and breathe through your nose to warm the air you are breathing.
  2. If you use an inhaler, ask your doctor if it is permissible to use it 30 minutes before you go out.
  3. If you use oxygen, keep your tubing inside your clothing to warm the air.
  4. Wear several layers of loose fitting garments so as not to constrict your breathing but allow you protection against the cold.
  5.  Try and limit your exposure to the cold as much as possible and  try to not over exert.

People with COPD must always take extraordinary care of themselves year round, but it takes an even greater significance during winter months. Sure, we all strive for mobility, but in the case of COPD sometimes you have to weigh whether the risk of an exacerbation or additional lung damage is worth the price of that mobility.

I sincerely hope this helps not only you but all the others out there with COPD to have a safe and healthy winter.

-The COPD Coach


Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice.

If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.


  1. Sally Joan says:

    If this helps anyone else…. my son bought me a hat at Walmart, only $10. It is very warm and has ear-flaps and also an optional nose/mouth flap you can use….you button it on each side and it covers your nose and mouth, keeping the freezing blowing winter air out, very good for those with COPD.

  2. Sally Joan says:

    I am terrified of getting pneumonia. I have had it several times in winter, being hospitalized once,nearly dying. I am 64 now and have had COPD since age 48 and put on oxygen at age 50….I now am on 3 liters all day/night.

  3. kaboyo najiibu, in uganda,muslim religion says:

    This is very good thanks for sharing with those with copd, they are really given more morale.This is great,may allah bless you.

  4. lynn mazza says:

    My husband has copd and I would like to share some things I found helpful for him. high humidity does make breathing harder so try showering with the bathroom door half open. if you powder after showering wear a mask. when leaving the bathroom close the door to let the powder dust settle.have someone warm the interior of the car using the heat before you get in and in summer don’t point the AC vents directly at your face. helpful for breathing drink hot tea, coffee or broth it warms the chest area. my husband loves ice cream so I warm a rice bag in the microwave and he puts in on his chest before and while eating it. when dusting the furniture lightly spray the cloth with water.if your planning a get together with family have them alert you if someone is sick. lighted candles can be a trigger especially scented ones use battery operated candles. check the pollution and dust levels in your area using your zip code at before you go out. wash clothes with unscented detergent and softener. make your own safe unscented household cleaners there’s a ton of options on the web. don’t clean with bleach or ammonia. my husband and I try and stay away from crowds during cold and flu season we shop early in the morning or late at night to avoid the crowds. Upon entering a store if you see someone smoking walk well away from them to avoid breathing in the smoke.dont let people smoke in your house. it seems like a lot to take in but it becomes a necessary way of life hope you find these helpful.

    • STEVE F says:

      Has your doctor prescribed or spoken about Dailresp?
      I have COPD and I’m taking Spirvia, Symbicort twice a day and one Daliresp pill. The pill makes me edgy and I have nightmares. Sometime I haven’t had in 0ver 40 yrs. I’m 55

      • Frank Crawford says:

        My wife (73)takes the same medicines and we were doing Spiriva twice a day and her pulmonologist said to take Spiriva only ONCE a day. She also uses Levalbuterol in a nebulizer for inhalation treatments. If she uses Albuterrol it causes her to shake more.

        • Frank Crawford says:

          Also my wife uses a Positive Expiratory Device,Aerobika (Breathing Device)that she received when she was in the hospital. When her O2 level has dropped below normal she will blow into the Aerobika and her oxygen level returns to normal.

  5. HAKIM KHAN says:

    I HAVE COPD and now drs are dignose the pulmonary atreriel hypertension and modrate TR, i m on inhaler, but from last 4 days im feeling very diffculty in breathing espcailly in night, even i cant go to washroom, i cant sleep properly,,, plz advise me what should i do????I HAVE ALOT OF cough and my is 60 year…..

  6. HAKIM KHAN says:

    I HAVE COPD and now drs are dignose the pulmonary atreriel hypertension and modrate TR, i m on inhaler, but from last 4 days im feeling very diffculty in breathing espcailly in night, even i cant go to washroom, i cant sleep properly,,, plz advise me what should i do????

    • HAKIM KHAN says:

      i have also cough and my age is around 60 year,,,,,,waiting for valueable reply

      • Nanny says:

        Please see your pulmonary specialist for advice on your issues regarding breathing and the cough. He/she is the one who will have the best responses to your medical issues since they are the professionals. Good luck and God bless.

  7. I really appreciate the latest post of you.The information provided by you is resourceful.Thank you for sharing with us.

  8. Sheila says:

    I’m wondering what temperatures are being considered “cold.” I love to spend time outside snowshoeing or just walking in the winter. I have good cold weather gear and stay warm

  9. Karen Sanderson says:

    What is the life expectancy for people with COPD? No one will tell me.

  10. I am actually glad to read this blog posts which includes
    plenty of valuable facts, thanks for providing these kinds of information.

  11. Margaret Estrada says:

    I want to know all I can do to manage my illness. I caught a cold and landed in the hospital. I was told that I have COPD. I almost chocked on the phlegm. What can I do to help stop or slow down the production of phlegm. I smoked for 40 years and finally quit smoking 3 years ago. Now I am afraid to be alone. I need words of encouragement. Thank you.

    • Katelyn Turner says:

      Hi Margaret,

      Please call our COPD Information Line. They are there to talk, listen and give you support. They can be reached at 866-316-2673 9am to 9pm EST Monday through Friday.

    • STEVE F says:

      They prescribed Daliresp it is supposed to greatly reduce flare ups and excaerbations.

  12. harold davis says:

    thank you for your comments. ilearned a lot but i still need to know if i saddle a horse when it is cold i am short of breath but i am not when i ride. should i stop ridding when it is cold?

  13. akrd46201 says:

    I have just registered on COPD Foundation site. I am not a new patient to copd but now I can relate to some people with this problem. I will find this very helpful for me. I have already learned about the winter weather is’nt good for us. I always felt it was helping breathe now I find out that is not true and more damdamage can occur. OMGis’nt Seth good r us. I did not know

    • Katelyn Harding says:

      Hello there–glad to have you here. If you have any questions, you can always call our C.O.P.D. Information Line at 866-316-2673. They are open 9AM to 9PM EST Monday through Friday. They are very helpful!

  14. Yes this helps me a lot since winter is coming. Thank you.

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