The official blog of the Lung Institute.
When the temperature dial is set to HOT across the entire country those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be wondering, Can this sultry weather affect my COPD?
How Does Weather Affect COPD?
Chances are, you or someone you know has COPD. According to the American Lung Association, more than 12 million people living in the United States have been diagnosed with this debilitating lung disease, and the same number are walking around with undiagnosed COPD. What is COPD? The term encompasses chronic bronchitis and emphysema, with the primary and preventable cause being smoking. People with COPD can experience a wide range of symptoms including chronic coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, mucus production and wheezing. Although no cure for COPD currently exists, symptoms and flare-ups can be minimized. COPD sufferers should understand what can trigger flare-ups.
It isn’t only warm weather that can worsen a COPD sufferer’s symptoms. Cold weather can wreak havoc and make a person with COPD feel poorly. Extremes of hot and cold–temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and below freezing–are the times to be vigilant.
For the most part, research studies have focused on the effects of cold weather on COPD. A group in England investigated the hypothesis that cold weather increased COPD flare-ups to such an extent that it resulted in hospitalizations. Analysis of 6 years of patient data established a clear correlation between cold weather and COPD hospital admissions. People were more susceptible to COPD flare-ups when cold weather lasted for a week or more.
A 10-year study conducted in Taiwan confirmed a similar relationship between cold weather and an increase in COPD symptoms. Researchers evaluated close to 17,000 COPD patients and concluded that, especially in elderly COPD patients and those who did not use inhalers, people suffered most at temperatures below 41ºF/5ºC , along with high barometric pressure.
Keeping Flare-ups to a Minimum
If you have COPD, there are a number of tips to keep flare-ups at a minimum when the weather is very hot or very cold.
In the Heat
- Stay indoors in the air-conditioning on the hottest and most humid days.
- Check air quality. Smog and heat work together to induce flare-ups.
- Drink plenty of water.
In the Cold
- Stay indoors. If you must venture outside, protect your head and neck with a hat and scarf. If you use supplemental oxygen, carry the hose under clothing to warm the air you’re inhaling from that chilly O2 tank.
- Breathe through the nose instead of the mouth.