How does Cold Weather Affect my COPD?

February 6th, 2013 | Author: COPD Coach

Dear COPD Coach,

I have had COPD for three years and am on oxygen 24 hours a day.  I was hoping you could answer the one question I cannot seem to find–it seems like the weather affects how I feel, especially on overcast and cloudy days, I really feel lousy. During cold weather, if oxygen is moist, the cold of the moisture chills my lungs and can make my entire body feel cold. Do you have any suggestions on how I can remedy this situation? Any advice would be much appreciated.

Weather Watcher

 

Dear Weather Watcher,

You are certainly not alone with weather-related breathing problems. How the weather affects COPD symptoms varies from patient to patient. Most generally, the extremes in weather are not good for most, and temperatures below freezing and above 90 tend to cause your COPD symptoms to flare up. Besides a shortness of breath you may also experience an increase in sputum production. Cold temperatures can also lead to fatigue and cause you not to feel your best. If you experience breathing problems in cold and windy weather, try wearing a scarf or face mask and breathe through your nose as much as possible. If you use supplemental oxygen, keep your oxygen hose under your coat to keep the air as warm as possible.

Source: www.centralpark.com

Source: www.centralpark.com

While there are a few people with COPD who actually breathe better during periods of high humidity, most of us will experience difficulty during high heat, humidity and especially smog. As the humidity in the air increases, the air becomes denser, which creates more resistance to airflow in the lung. During days with high heat and humidity people with COPD should restrict their activities as much as possible and remain in an air conditioned environment.

The barometric pressure seems to affect some with COPD. I have often had patients tell me that they can actually predict weather based on their breathing. As the barometric pressure drops there is less oxygen in the air, very similar as to when you experience higher elevations. This can cause a worsening in your COPD symptoms. On the other hand, others feel that their breathing is more difficult in good weather when there is a high-pressure weather system in place.

Another factor that affects some people with COPD is wind. While not fully understood, some people with COPD become increasingly short of breath on windy days, and even in some cases experience difficulties with moving air from fans.

While the effects of weather differ in people with COPD, if you experience problems in certain weather conditions, here is what you can do to help yourself:

  1. Take your medications as prescribed. If you use an emergency inhaler, make sure it is available to you during adverse conditions. Do NOT keep your inhaler in your car. Aerosol inhalers can be depended upon to operate fully only in temps of about 50-80 degrees.
  2. During weather extremes, arrange your schedule to go out only during times of moderate temperatures or humidity.
  3. In cold temperatures use a scarf or mask and be sure to shield your oxygen hoses.
  4. Keep the air in your home as clean as possible by using a good HEPA  air cleaner, change furnace filters regularly and replace with high quality, high rated filters
  5. Keep the humidity in your home at a level that is comfortable for you.
  6. Do not leave your home during days with high pollution! If you do have to leave your home, do not exert. In other words, do not walk or bike outdoors for exercise on clean air action days.

Hope this helps!

–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 atcoachescorner@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.

40 comments

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  2. elizabeth charles says:

    I urge all who feel an emphysema diagnosis doesn’t make sense to be tested for Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, sometimes called hereditary ephysema. Diagnosed with emphysema at 47, I was not identified until age 59. By then the damage was done. It is more common than previously thought!

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  4. Mario says:

    I find difficult to live with a very hot environment, especially at night where we want to get a good night’s sleep, but when it’s hot it becomes almost annoying, often evil awoke be late at night, I enfretado one days and warm nights and my town, I was not used to this level of temperature as it had come from a colder country, and now that I am is far more interesting quente.Achei that information about the weather.

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  8. Samreen Zia says:

    Sir my father suffering for severe copd he is 64 years of age .he has breathing problem .most of the time he is unble to perform his daily routine work.his first attack occur at 2008 may..after dat his is not getting good health.he has gone 3 times on ventilator .taking oxgen and bi pap support but still not getting good results sir I want to know what kind of precautions we take and if he live the place where the climate is good n greeny area .is that any relief ? Now he is living in delhi at the place is not good environment. If he change the place ..is that hope..?

    • Eleanor says:

      Samreen. I suffer as your Father does. If possible, get him out of Delhi and to a mild climate, with low or no pollution.

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  10. mike sanders says:

    yes i been diagnosed copd never smoked 60 years old live in illinois i can move anywhere … i luv to move to alaska,, 1976 age 22 worked constrution of alaska pipeline … do i need to not move there and move from illinois to a year long warm climate,,,, my breathing worsens all time ,,, i need to do something open for suggestions,,,,,,,,,, many thanz mike sanders

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  15. Nick says:

    I’d just like to say I’ve been suffering with COPD for 12 years now don’t know what stage I’m at I’d rather not know anyway COPD doesn’t run in my genes but I got it and I’d just like to say it’s probably our inoculations we had as kids that’s caused so many of us to get it as there’s no other plausible explanations ie vaccines from 1972 onwards plus teeth fillings too I’ve read can cause COPD as your breathing it into your lungs every second for years till it kinda dies down from poisoning you and your bloodstream and the last cause is smog and air pollutants so here you have it guys don’t get me wrong throughout my life I’ve smoked and smoked drugs too but this just does not run in my families genes anyway please stay safe my suffering brothers and sisters as we will be back next time round maybe with another illness maybe not etc thanks guys.

    • Suz says:

      The majority of COPD cases are caused by smoking. Not Vaccines. You sound like my mum, she was refusing to believe her smoking was the cause too.

      • ROLANNA says:

        SWEETIE, I WAS AN RN FOR YEARS AND I TREATED MORE PATIENTS WITHCOPD THAT DID NOT SMOKE THAN DID SMOKE. WHAT U TINK ABOUT THAT??

    • eric charles says:

      Get real my good man.
      Yu blamin vaccines and ignore smoking as possible cause?
      Smoking will kill you 10 to 20 years early: heart disease, cancer, emphysema, oral cancer, and on and on . . . .
      Don’t blame a “maybe” cause, when smoking is definitely gonna kill yu early AND is largest cause of COPD and other breathing and lung problems

  16. pat divid says:

    when are new treatments going to come available?? I never see any news regarding this killer of so many, there always seem to be new things for heart problems and cancer but nothing for this disease of any significance.

  17. Brenda Reed says:

    I have had COPD Chronic Bronchitis for about 7 years. My daughter thinks because I keep my house at 65 degrees year round it is the cause of my COPD exacerbations. I cannot breathe when it is warm in my house or outside. Does my house temperature worsen my symptoms?

    • Richard Robson says:

      I am a long term asthmatic, three years COPD. Each winter gets more difficult.
      Too warm a house removes oxygen. You need cool but not cold oxygen rich air. Even of you keep one room cooler so that you can move there when the heat gets too much.
      I even find showering difficult in cold damp/hot damp weather, and I am much happier in high pressure weather systems.

  18. Thank you for the phone number and i will consider calling but you did not understand. It is not the seasons upsetting me. My husband told me out right two days before our aniversary that he would be relieved if i died because he would not have to take care of me anymore. He wants to leave and if he does i will have know where to go and knowone to help me. I dont even have transportation if he leaves. No insurance. No way to survive. Somedays i cant breathe enough to get to the bathroom and back. It is not the weather that is bothering me. And by the way, i love my husband and this is our only problem. he just cant handle the stress. I cant fix this. I cant make this go away to make him happy again. Thanks but different weather is not going to help me.

    • Richard Robson says:

      Well bless your heart Beverly. What a sad sad story. I do hope by now things have improved?

      • Well let me say Beverly my husband did leave me in 2010 when I took over the illness things seem to get worse but they did get better yes I do have a son and daughter in law and daughter that helps but still not having that sole person next to you is it big difference and I totally can understand and feel your symptoms but I understand there are people out there that do help us there is BayCare there is certain financial institutes that will be there to help you and give you the insurance you need to take care of yourself so don’t think you so I have to depend on a man that doesn’t want to be with you I totally understand your feelings totally understand them its been 3 years now and I’ve been on my own and it’s sad and I wish someday there be somebody in my life again maybe not maybe there will be but being alone isn’t that rough it’s just sad

        • elizabeth charles says:

          Talk to a social worker to find out what your options are. Someone who has never lived as we do cannot understand and the last thing you beed is someone making you feel worse because you are sick. What did he think the “in sickness and in health” part of the marriage vows meant? You don’t need that, hon. You have options. Take control!

  19. My husband wants to leave me because i am sick. It would be a relief to him if i died because he would not have to take care of me anymore. I have no insurance and all i can get anyone to give me for this is ipotropium bromide inhalation solution twice or three times a day. I also have asthma. I dont have anyone and i cant even work. I sit here all day trapped in my house. Is there anything you can suggest to help me. I dont want to die. I dont want to die alone.

    • COPD Coach says:

      Hi Beverly

      I certainly understand your feelings. It could well be that you are somewhat more depressed by the change of seasons. If you need to talk, please call the COPD Information Line at 866-316-2673 Monday-Friday 9-9 EST. Sometimes it really helps to talk with a fellow patient, and the information line is staffed by patients!

  20. Gary Jameson says:

    I guess I am one of the weirder ones with COPD, I am at stage 3 and would much rather go outside in the winter. I live in northern Michigan so winters can get awful cold but I love getting outside to clean my driveway and try cutting my firewood.In the summer I aam a prisoner in my home after it gets to 75 degrees. I have never smoked in my entire life of 60 years but got COPD from foul air at work and an explosion when I was 30 years old

    • COPD Coach says:

      Hi Gary

      Have you been tested for Alpha-1 yet? It is the one known genetic cause of COPD that we are aware of. Please call the COPD Information Line at 866-316-2673 as ask about how to get a home test kit.

      • Hi Gary says:

        Gary if u haven’t done so, u need to get hold of Alpha 1. The blood test is free. I’ve never smoked either & was tested for Alpha 1 in June 2010. I have to admit, it took my doctor (he tested me twice). You have to listen to your body. Alpha 1 is your missing a genetic protein in your body, I get iv’s of prolastin every week and get gammaglobin for keeping immune system up. Believe me it is worth the free testing to find out. Of course I also got pulled from working so on disability. The more you listen to the changes in your body the better it is to keep comfortable.

  21. Cindy C says:

    I’ve had severe Asthma for 20 yrs, and COPD for the last several. I’m at stage 4 & oxygen dependent, and really have to be careful about many things now. I love cool rain/fog – that seems to be when I can breath the best. I’ve lived in the San Fran Bay Area, upstate NY, and now S. Carolina. Each area presents its own problems for me, so I don’t know if there’s really any “perfect” place to live. I have to stay inside, period, when it’s windy. When it’s under 40, I have to wear a heavy scarf over my nose & mouth when I go outside; when it’s over 85 I have to have the car pre-cooled before I can get in, otherwise my lungs do a “slow close”. I keep my bedroom at a constant 65 year round with a window A/C unit, even tho I have central air. I’ve actually improved slightly over the last year, which was a nice surprise, so now I have to be even more careful! lol

    • COPD Coach says:

      Hi Cindi

      As the letter suggests, not all people with COPD react to weather in the same way. I also sleep better and run a bedroom air conditioner year round. I just breathe better!
      Very happy with your improvement!

  22. please tell me what i can do. i have had copd for 15 years i am in stage 3, i have quit smoking for three years and my doctor say’s that i will die with before i die from it. now i love the cold weather, i was in wyoming a few years ago with my son at christmas and i had no problem breathing. i have more problems breathing in the summer time. i am 63 years old and just don’t know what to do. i live in florida and have thought about leaving to somewhere else, but i have no idea where would be better for me. can you please help me. i stay at home all the time and have gained so much weight from doing nothing but eating from boredom anything you could tell me i would appreciate. thank you so much. carolyn jenkins.

    • COPD Coach says:

      Hi Carolyn

      Obviously a more northern climate would probably work best. The best way to find out is to visit a region different times of the year, or check the climate report by googling
      the area. As for you comment regarding dying of something other than COPD, that is indeed a strong possibility as it is common with COPD to have co-morbidities (other conditions that result from or exist along with your COPD). That said, there are things you can do about it. Please look through the older letters and you will find lots of info on co-morbidities. Also check out the Big Fat Reference Guide at http://www.copdbfrg.org.

  23. Jim Gibbs says:

    I feel trapped in my home when it’s cold. It takes much more for me to breath and tires me out quickly with longer time to regroup my strength, much as really hot weather.
    I handle 68 to 76 degree weather the best. I also in my travels trucking cross country found that, the west coast by Oregon area I breathed so much better.
    But where do you find a happy medium in the weather anywhere?
    Again it seems that it’s here in these walls that are about me. I’m not depressed about it but angered. I have to fight the weather for it is the demon that attacks my weak COPD. Fight it so that my COPD does not get stronger and keep me from the things I can do now.

    • COPD Coach says:

      I don’t think there really is a happy medium though I hear good things about Hawaii! Those with COPD who can afford it find the best solution is a summer and a winter home. Most of us do not have that luxury.

  24. Pat Griffin says:

    Can you please give advice/recommendations into a good Hepa air cleaner? There are so many on the market, I was hoping you would have a “short list”. Thank you for your help and all you do to help us better cope with COPD.

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