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COPD Symptom Management in Cold Weather

Many people who have COPD have a hard time during the cold winter months. COPD is a lung disease that gets worse over time and causes coughing, trouble breathing, and making too much mucus. Cold, dry air can make these symptoms worse.

The mix of cold weather and low humidity in the winter can make flare-ups worse and make it even harder to breathe. Also, heating systems inside can dry out the air even more, worsening breathing problems.

Handling cold weather with COPD

Sometimes it's hard to keep the dates straight about how things have changed with your COPD, because the changes can be so subtle. Having the information written down helps you know when to seek help. The message becomes clearer when you collect the proper data.

Keep a health tracker journal

One of the best things that you can do for yourself is to keep a diary or journal of the day-to-day changes that occur with COPD. This is especially important during these cold weather months.

This is a task similar to the charting that nurses do in the hospital, only you are keeping track now and regurgitating the information back to the doctor. This is the way for you to become intimate with your COPD.

Have an action plan

Have a frank talk with your doctor or pulmonary specialist and ask to have an action plan setup for you. This helps you to know when to begin taking your antibiotics and steroids and know when you are over your head, and it is time to head to the hospital.

Plan, plan and plan some more

Cold weather is not a time to be spontaneous. It takes proper planning to go out in the winter and successfully return home. I am a day before planner.

The day before the event, I have my shower and get my clothes laid out and placed where I can easily reach them to get dressed. Then, I take my time to slowly get dressed and out the door.

Bundle up

Once temperatures drop below freezing, it is time to bundle up. I like to dress in layers because they are less restricting, and I can easily shed layers when necessary.

Wearing a surgical mask, and wrapping a wool scarf around your mouth, allows you to keep your breath warm without allowing cold air to hit your lungs. Dress for the weather without overdressing or under dressing.

Staying Warm

If you have someone chauffeuring you, request that they keep the car warm by keeping a heater and the seat warmers going. Make your entrance to your vehicle as accessible as possible.

Stay in your lane and be mindful of what you are doing. Remember, only one task at a time.

Use your tools

  • A walker helps to support your upper body and should have a basket to hold all the things, like supplemental oxygen. I also have a cup holder on the side for my coffee.
  • Have a rescue inhaler handy and use it when necessary.
  • Use your supplemental oxygen and stop worrying about what others think. This will protect your lungs, heart, and brain.
  • Keeping extremities like your feet, hands, mouth, and head covered will help you to maintain your core temperature.
  • Be mindful of your symptoms and be willing to act when needed.

Pay attention to the weather forecast well in advance of the day. If you feel it is not a good day to go out, then stay put. There is only one you and you are important.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 7th, 2024, Barbara Moore passed away. Barbara’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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