Brrrrr!!!! The cold weather is really packing a punch today. Temperatures are well below zero in the Midwest and the majority of the United States is experiencing below freezing temperatures. While this kind of cold is miserable for everyone, COPD and chronic respiratory disease patients alike should take extra precautions with the extreme cold. When temperatures drop this low, it is best for COPD patients to stay indoors. This kind of extreme cold will take your breath away and shock your lungs.
Only leave your house if you absolutely have to and follow some of these tips and hints to make the cold more manageable. When the temperatures go back to normal, for the winter, you should still follow these tips and hints to prevent getting sick or having an exacerbation.
Dealing With The Cold Weather
- When outside in cold weather, remember to inhale through your nose. This will give the cold air some time to warm up before entering your lungs.
- If it is especially windy or dry and cold, it is best to cover your nose and mouth. You buy special face warmers that cover your nose and mouth, or a scarf will suffice. This will warm the cold air up and it can also help prevent coughing spells.
- Keep your bronchodilator medication (inhaler) with you to help alleviate coughing spells and shortness of breath due to the the cold weather.
- Drink a lot of liquids, mainly water and real fruit juice. Staying hydrated plays an important role in your health, in all aspects. With that being said, try to stay away from sugary drinks like soda that can dehydrate you.
- Avoid big crowds of people when possible. Cold and flu season is in it's peak and you don't know who may be sick.
- Avoid friends and family members who are sick. Germs are airborne, so if you are around friends and family that are sick, they should consider wearing a surgical mask for your safety.
- Stay physically active. Exercise strengthens your muscles, boosts your immune system, and can help regulate your sleep schedule. There are many more reasons why you should exercise, but we will save that for another blog post.
- Consider getting vaccinated. Vaccines are available for illnesses like the flu and pneumonia which can wreak havoc without COPD being present.
- If you have a central heating system, you should replace your air filters before turning the heat on. If you did not do that, consider replacing them now. This will prevent unwanted dust making its way into your system.
- Use humidifiers to increase the humidity in your home. Our lungs need moisture to keep their cleansing systems working.
- Stay away from smokers. Cigarette smoke is a lung irritant and can cause a flare up. If you are on oxygen, whether you use a portable oxygen concentrator, liquid oxygen, or O2 tanks you should never be near an open flame or cigarettes.
- Do not leave your portable oxygen concentrator or any of its accessories in your car, the cold may cause problems.
With COPD or any chronic respiratory disease it is important to be aware of the effects weather can have on your disease. Managing your exposure and limiting your risk factors are great ways of maintaining your health, which is the exact goal of treating COPD. Following these tips don't guarantee you immunity from getting sick or experiencing an exacerbation, but they do lower your risk. If you have other tips and hints for fellow patients, feel free to comment below!