Cold Weather and COPD

Cold Weather and COPDDo you experience a shortness of breath from cold air? If you suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you might find your symptoms worsen when you are outdoors in winter weather. COPD is characterized by limitation of airflow to and from the lungs. It is generally progressive, meaning it can worsen over time. According to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO), 64 million people currently have COPD and 3.17 million people died from COPD in 2015, equal to 5% of all deaths globally that year. Many people who suffer from COPD acknowledge that harsh winds and frigid air can result in wheezing and breathlessness, which can be frightening and sometimes dangerous. Cold air can be irritating and drying to the mouth and airway passages, and can trigger or intensify symptoms for those suffering from COPD.

The effects of cold weather on COPD do not permanently exacerbate the condition, but they can temporarily compound the condition by constricting airflow to a greater degree. In severe cases, people may be admitted to the hospital for treatment.

Here are a few tips to prepare for and minimize the effects of cold air on your COPD:

  1. Avoid smoking and being around others who smoke. Cigarette smoke is irritating and constricting to the airways. When combined with extremely cold air, it can severely aggravate COPD.
  2. Wear a cold-air face mask when going out into cold weather.These are designed to create a barrier of cold air to your mouth and airways. You can find cold-air masks at most drugstores. If you don’t have one, wear a warm scarf over your nose and mouth.
  3. Take a preventive dose of your bronchodilator before going outside. Take a dose roughly 30 minutes prior to going out into cold weather to help open constricted. Also, be sure to carry your rescue inhaler with you wherever you go.
  4. Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth when outside. Moist surfaces in your nasal passages will help to warm and humidify air as it makes its way to your lungs.
  5. Consider buying a humidifier for your home. It can bring moisture into the air when it is cold and dry outside, especially if your heating system brings more dryness into the air.
By Kindred Healthcare