Winter Is Coming - Be Careful Out There
Last updated: February 2023
Sadly, winter is approaching as we are into fall. With it comes gentle reminders to prepare for the coming cold we in the northern hemisphere are about to endure. Many will already have had a recent chest infection. I have never worked out why, but it seems the change of season sets off an exacerbation for many of us.
The biggest danger to us COPD'ers is not acting fast enough to treat an infection.
If untreated, infections can rapidly turn into a pneumonia. Remember at all times, we are susceptible. I have become ill with pneumonia several times. This is alarming, distressing, and a real crisis, since if you do not act fast, the chances of survival diminish rapidly. If you suddenly find yourself unusually very short of breath with rising temperature, get to the hospital as quick as you can.
Having had pneumonia three times in the last four years, be warned. This illness appears at incredible speed. On the first occasion, I woke in the morning feeling good to face the world, only to be raced into hospital early evening hardly able to breathe.
The flu shot
A major issue this time of year is the flu shot. I have had mine. Have you had yours? There is a myth that having a flu shot gives you the flu. Rest assured, this is not true. But a flu shot may save your life. Be aware. Flu is a killer and sees off many otherwise healthy people into their grave.
For us with COPD, it is far more serious. Get the flu and you have a high risk of going to the hospital – and you may end up on a ventilation machine. Is the risk of missing the shot worth it? Ask your caregiver or partner to go along and have the shot with you. My partner Lynne never used to have a flu shot. She hates them almost as much as she hates the needle. But love is good and now Lynne has one each year with me. You do not need your loved one or caregiver to go down with the flu as this puts you at risk.
The sunshine vitamin
Do you take a Vitamin D3 supplement? Often called the sunshine vitamin after reading research on COPD and D3 five years or more ago, I decided to start taking a 5,000 iu capsule each day. Although I have had the occasional exacerbation since, I have not been visited by a bad cold in the time I have taken it. Much has been written about vitamin D3 and COPD. It has been observed that most of us with COPD are low in vitamin D and that we are more unwell and have more exacerbation if our D3 levels are low.
Not many realize D3 is one of the most essential vitamins the body needs. A plus in my case was I used to suffer from the winter syndrome SAD but after starting to take the supplement I was bothered no more by this. Because as many COPD'ers do, I take quite high amounts of steroids at times I have had a bone scan ordered by my specialist. My doctor is very interested in the results of this scan as he thinks after taking a D3 supplement for some years this would have helped protect my bones.
I would advise you ask your doctor about D3 supplements and, if unsure, take a test to find your vitamin D3 serum level, because if low this can and will affect your health. Vitamin D3 capsules are widely available and cost little. For more information, Google "vitamin D3 and COPD."
Stay away from crowds
During the winter months, if possible, stay away from crowds. Wash your hands often. Ban anyone, and yes that sadly does mean family members, from your home if they are ill. I have found taking risks is not worth it. In my case, my family fully understands and will phone to cancel a visit if they are with a cold or another ailment.
Remember, cold, wind, heat, they all affect us to a lesser or greater degree. I remember a few years ago when the snow was down thinking how pretty it looked. Being an amateur photographer I was keen to 'get out there', to take a few pictures. I donned my winter gear, turned my oxygen on, and ventured out with camera in hand. Big mistake. The cold shut down my tubes within a very short time, leaving me gasping for air. The oxygen seemed to do little, and I found myself looking at my house from only 40 yards away thinking I was not going to make it to safety. That, for me, was both scary, and avoidable. Don't take chances. As that chance may well be your last.
Stop the cold
When you venture out please remember to stop the cold entering your lungs where possible. I use a snood (hood and scarf) to cover my head, neck, nose, and mouth. I don't like them as they feel restrictive. But a snood does keep the cold from shutting down my 'tubes'. If alone, always have a cell phone with you and let someone know where you have gone. That way the alert will be sounded should you not arrive safely home in good time.
Keeping up exercise
Even though winter is arriving and our activity will be severely limited, we still have to exercise. For many, at least during part of winter, cold, damp or windy weather will stop us from venturing out far beyond our door. My favorite to overcome this is to visit a shopping mall. The larger the better. Malls are safe and warm, offer a haven for any shopping you wish to do. And there is to me nothing more pleasant than having a coffee with a friend in a mall, or if alone, just watching the world pass by.
No reason to do nothing
I have many faces as a volunteer worker, offering my services as a patient representative to many health organizations. I belong to my local Breathe Easy group, meeting once a month and other times to have a social occasion such as to dine together or for a concert. At this time I am learning to give a presentation to organizations for Cancer Research UK as a Research Champion. There really is no reason to sit indoors doing nothing even if on oxygen with limited mobility.
Almost anything is possible
I am not going to pretend that getting outdoors for everyone is easy. It is not for me. Every trip, every venture, needs careful planning. Often if in a strange area I will Google Earth walk the area where I am going. Can I ride my scooter there? Is the area disabled-friendly? You will find with careful planning almost anything is possible. Providing you take your time and allow for your disability.
I hope you have found this article of use. Till I write again, remember we are not alone. But most of all, Breathe Easy.
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