Managing COPD in the Summer
Summer heat and humidity can make it hard to breathe for even the healthiest person. For people with COPD, the summer heat can not only mean difficulty breathing, but also potential danger. If you have COPD, it’s not uncommon to experience more shortness of breath during the summer months. Our bodies naturally work to maintain a normal body temperature, but when we’re exposed to extreme weather conditions, like heat, the body has to use extra energy to cool down and maintain that normal temperature.
Since your body is already using more energy to breathe because of COPD, the additional stress of heat, smog and other air pollutants can make breathing harder.
1. Drink lots of fluids.
Drink more than regularly, even if you are not thirsty or active. Reduce and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
2. Plan your activities.
If you don’t have air conditioning, plan your day to involve going to places that do, like a shopping mall, a library, or another home that is air conditioned. If you usually exercise outdoors, you may choose to take it indoors or you may decide to exercise in the early morning or later in the evening when the heat and smog levels are generally lower.
3. Follow your local daily air quality report.
Get a daily forecast of pollen counts and other air quality must-knows for your area.
4. Breathe easier indoors.
Of course no one wants to stay indoors when there’s summer fun to be had, but if you need to limit your time outside because of COPD it’s important to stay cool. Turn on the AC. Keep windows and doors closed when outdoor air pollution levels are high or at levels that affect you. This can help reduce exposure to air pollution. Take a cool shower or bath to lower your body temperature. If you have to go outside, do it in the early morning hours or after the sun goes down.
5. Review your COPD Action Plan.
If you have COPD, follow your health care action plan carefully. If breathing becomes more difficult, contact your health care provider or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.