5 Tips for Managing COPD Symptoms in Winter

Whether you enjoy skiing down a mountain or walking under the snow-covered trees, winter is a great time for enjoying the outdoors. For people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), however, these fun activities can lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to stay healthy even in cold weather.

At Girard Internal Medicine in Philadelphia, Dr. Nicole Kimzey and the rest of our team provide comprehensive and compassionate care for a variety of chronic conditions, such as COPD, diabetes, and hypertension. We also offer thorough physical exams and screenings to keep people healthy on the inside and laser services for hair removal, spider vein elimination, and more to ensure patients are looking good on the outside too.

COPD explained

COPD results in obstructed airflow from the lungs and causes significant breathing difficulty. Signs typically include shortness of breath (especially when active), chest tightness, a chronic cough with mucus, and general fatigue. Symptoms usually don’t develop until the disease has progressed past the initial stage and lung damage has occurred. It’s common to have better days and worse days.

Sometimes people experience flare-ups of respiratory symptoms known as COPD exacerbations. This can cause even more damage to the lungs and should be avoided when at all possible. One way to do this is to recognize triggers, such as cold winter weather.

COPD in winter

When researchers tracked 7,000 people with COPD for a year, they discovered exacerbations were twice as likely to occur in winter than during the summer. They also learned that if people have had one flare-up, they're more likely to have a second one sooner during the cold weather than they would at another time of year. The good news is that there are steps you can take to stay healthy.

Maintain good habits

Keeping up with your routine is especially important during the winter. Eat a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and be sure to drink plenty of water. If you’ve been prescribed medications and/or oxygen therapy, use them as directed. Do not smoke and avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible.

Try to stay healthy

Sniffling and coughing seem to be everywhere during the winter, but there are still things you can do to try to stay healthy. Get a flu shot every year, and be sure your pneumonia vaccination is up to date. Avoid sick people whenever possible, and wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 30 seconds (the length of time it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice). Also, be careful not to get a chill, as it turns out that it actually can predispose you to getting sick.

Consider the weather

Cold, dry air can irritate the airways and cause wheezing and coughing. When going out, be sure to cover your nose and mouth with a scarf. Also, avoid exercising outside when the temperatures dip.

Clean the humidifier

While humidifiers can add helpful warmth and moisture to the air, they can also allow for the growth of mold. Be sure to clean the machine every other day.

Watch out for air quality

Indoor air pollution can be a problem during the winter because it's too cold outside to open the windows to air out the house. Limit use of scented items, like candles, as well as aerosol cleaning products. Fires in the fireplace can also be an issue because the wood smoke irritates the lungs.

If you have COPD, be sure to follow these steps to help limit flare-ups during the winter. If you're looking for a doctor's help, call our office or click the button to book an appointment with Dr. Kimzey today.

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