Are you a human thermostat and/or barometer? If you say yes, you aren’t alone. You have probably heard how people with arthritis or fibromyalgia can feel the weather changes in their bodies – joints, bones and/or muscles. Some may get headaches, or migraines. These changes can also affect those of us with COPD. Living with COPD can be difficult in itself. It can be more difficult when outside factors are added, such as the weather changes, pollutants and allergens.
If you’re like me, you might find that it’s more difficult to breathe when there are changes in the air or barometric pressure.
This shortness of breath is called dyspnea. The air pressure in your lungs has to be less than the air outside your lungs, to get your lungs to inflate. This is because air moves from high pressure areas to low pressure areas (1). During bad weather and at high altitudes the air pressure is lower, making it harder for us to breathe.
Changes in barometric pressure and temperature can also affect air quality which can exacerbate symptoms of COPD. When the temp rises, we can experience more shortness of breath. Those temperature changes, as well as heat and humidity, can affect those of us with COPD more than a person without COPD or other lung illness.
Have you ever experienced a bronchospasm?
This is a spasm triggered by warm air that causes the airways in the lungs to constrict. The tubes that flow in and out of the lungs are called bronchioles. The bronchioles are inflamed and contract in response to triggers, such as the warmer air. The airways in the lungs become smaller, which make it more difficult for the air to pass in and out of the body. That can be more difficult for people living in hotter climates.
It’s important that you exercise when you are able and even when you don’t feel like it. Remember to include your breathing exercises, as well as your pursed lip breathing. Journal these as well. Exercise when temperatures are comfortable, before it gets too hot and humid. These temps and conditions can cause fatigue and over exposure to heat. As barometric temperatures rise, you will likely experience more shortness of breath. Some of these conditions can cause a COPD exacerbation.
So next time, when someone asks if you know the temperature, or do you know if it’s going to rain, you can say “yes I do”!
I wish you all a breathe-easy day/night.