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

(picturesofwinter.com)

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 (www.copdbfrg.org) for exercises you can do indoors. You might also consider purchasing a treadmill http://copddigest.org/read/172/Choosing+Home+Exercise+Equipment+Treadmillor 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 coachescorner@copdfoundation.org. 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.

11 comments

  1. 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

  2. Karen Sanderson says:

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

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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!

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

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