COPD and the Weather
Last updated: September 2022
Have you ever experienced worsening COPD symptoms during certain types of weather? Whether it is too hot, humid, cold, or rainy? I think we all have our “ideal weather” type and when the forecast calls for something different, we brace for increased lung symptoms. Our lungs are finicky and they like things a certain way & it doesn’t take much to throw it all out of whack. COPD is not a one size fits all disease. No two people will have the same triggers and experience, thus making it difficult to manage and treat at times.
Heat & humidity
The hot summers, especially when the humidity is high, can be a real issue for people with COPD. The higher humidity sometimes makes it harder to breathe for even people with no lung ailments. Breathing especially warm/hot air can lead to worsening airway inflammation. Dry heat can also dry out mucus membranes which oftentimes leads to airway irritation and increased difficulty breathing. Staying hydrated is very important when it's hot outside as is limiting time outdoors.
Cold, dry air
Overall, people with COPD and other respiratory conditions have higher mortality rates during the winter months.1 When it is very cold, the humidity level is also often low which can dry out the mucous membranes similarly to hot dry weather which can be very irritating to the airways and cause COPD symptoms to flare up. If you need to go outside when it is very cold, wear a scarf around your mouth and nose. This will help add humidity to the air you are breathing and lessen any airway irritation that may occur.
It is not uncommon for people who have COPD or other lung conditions to experience worsening symptoms before and during a thunderstorm. The theory behind it is that when a storm is approaching, there is more humidity/moisture in the air which causes pollen to absorb that moisture. You then inhale those particles easier than dry pollens. When the wind that comes along with storms starts to increase, mold spores and other COPD irritants/triggers are blown around making it harder to breathe.2 These types of flare-ups are most common during the spring and summer. It is a good idea to stay indoors during stormy weather whenever possible and keep windows closed so the pollens and irritants don’t come into your home.
Managing through the seasons
I grew up in a place that had pretty great weather year-round. Three years ago we moved to a place that has all four seasons and I absolutely love it! I have definitely had to learn how to manage my lungs during all of the seasons so that I can keep breathing easy and enjoy all that nature has to offer. I keep an open line of communication with my doctors at all times and stay on top of my symptoms as well as take the necessary preventative measures. If you have any tips for staying safe during various weather types I would love to hear them!
Where do you stand with your COPD?