July 15, 2015

Coping with heat and COPD

If you suffer from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), the summer heat can lead to dangerous complications. Here are some steps you can take to beat the heat this summer and breathe easier:

  • Stop smoking. Smoking accounts for almost 90 percent of all COPD-related deaths. If you smoke, quit. Avoid secondhand smoke, too.
  • Watch the weather. Check the daily weather report (your breathing may become more difficult on days when the temperature is above 90 degrees or days with high humidity). Also check the air quality index (higher than 100 indicates the air is unhealthy for COPD patients).
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Drinking fluids (preferably water) keep mucus thin, making it easier to clear your lungs and airways. Clear airways are less prone to infection. Drink at least two extra glasses of water a day on very hot days, even if you’re inside.
  • Arrange your activities. When temperatures rise and air pollution levels are high, stay indoors. If you have to go outside, plan activities during early morning hours or after the sun goes down.
  • Keep cool. Run your air conditioner when indoors. Air conditioners not only cool the air, but they also remove humidity and filter the air, keeping it clean. Take a cool shower or bath to lower your body temperature. In your car, set air conditioning to “recirculate” when outdoor air is bad.
  • Revise your exercise routine. During the hot summer months, move your workouts indoors (at a gym or with home equipment) in air conditioning. If you do exercise outside, go early in the morning when the air quality is generally best. Remember to drink plenty of fluids.
  • Manage your medications. Take your medications as directed by your doctor. If you are oxygen dependent, ask your doctor about your oxygen requirements during the summer months.
  • Phone a friend. Have a good friend or relative check on you if you live alone. Call for medical help for new or worsening symptoms or if your breathing worsens.

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