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COPD Management in the Heat of Summertime

August 1, 2017

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a condition that limits the flow of air in and out of the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing and fatigue.

(article appeared in the Windsor Locks Journal, Windsor Journal and Bloomfield Messenger care of iCare-Touchpoints staff)

COPD and other emphysema related diseases can be made worse by the hot and humid weather of a New England summer. It is imperative that patients take proper precautions against hazards to their pulmonary health.  

Higher temperatures require more from the body in order to maintain a regular body temperature, even in healthy individuals. Naturally if the body is working harder it also requires more oxygen which in turn makes breathing more difficult.

According to the National Emphysema Foundation there are some basic steps and precautions that can be taken:

Stay Indoors: By limiting time outdoors, the body is able to more easily maintain a temperature of 98.6, which helps regulate breathing and limits the potential to become short of breath. Air conditioning with a filtration system may be a worthwhile investment for those with lung disease. Cool or cold baths or showers have been known to help with symptoms but be prudent with the temperature and don’t consider a cold shower an intervention for shortness of breath.

Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for regulating body temperature. The long standing recommendation continues to be drinking eight full glasses of water each day on average. It is also be a good idea to carry a thermos or water bottle to ensure that you stay hydrated throughout the day and cost effective bottles that keep drinks cold for hours are readily available.

Allergy Awareness: During summer, many plants and allergens exacerbate COPD, especially asthma. Be aware of which affect you and talk to your doctor about selecting allergy medications or inhalers that will best support your breathing in the summer heat.

Combat Humidity: New England, including central and eastern Connecticut are prone to excessive heat and humidity in the heights of summer, making it even harder to breathe. Purchasing a small dehumidifier for your home and bedroom, coupled with air conditioning with filtration if possible, can drastically improve the ability to breathe.

The Emphysema Foundation also recommends what your doctor has been telling you for a lifetime; that exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight are critical factors that affect much more than just your pulmonary health.

It is always important to maintain contact with your doctor, update your medical team with your pulmonary status, seek ways to maintain ideal health and medical care and if you are having emergent symptoms, don’t be stubborn; call 9-1-1.

At Touchpoints of Bloomfield we have a comprehensive pulmonary rehabilitation program for patients with COPD and congestive heart failure. Visit us at touchpointsrehab.com for more information.