Winter is coming. Here’s what you need to know.
For anyone who suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), cold weather conditions can often bring out the worst symptoms. Cold temperatures can regularly lead to fatigue, and even windy days can cause shortness of breath. It’s no secret that many suffering from the disease have found their symptoms become aggravated during colder weather. The effect of cold temperatures on respiratory health has been the subject of study for quite some time, and researchers have even found direct links between cold weather and COPD hospital admissions.
With your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to provide you with the information you need to avoid the danger of cold weather and COPD so that you stay healthy this winter.
Cold Weather and COPD
The effects of cold weather on the lungs can be extreme and chronic exposure to cold environments are known to cause dramatic changes to the respiratory system. What many who experience respiratory illness fail to realize is how closely linked the heart and lungs are in their function. The lungs provide oxygen to the bloodstream and the heart pumps blood, delivering oxygen to various parts throughout the body. With an onset of low to extreme temperatures blood vessels begin to narrow, restricting blood flow and depriving the heart of oxygen. The heart is forced to pump harder, which ultimately increases blood pressure.
Your Body’s Response
The body’s initial response to cold weather is an increase in the respiration rate (hyperventilation) followed by a steep drop (hypoventilation). As researchers can attest, even cold weather temperatures that seem mild can spark poor respiratory health. In mild winters particularly, the largest strain on the respiratory system can be found, leading to a higher rate of cold-related mortality among the elderly. In fact, it is at 40 degrees Fahrenheit in which the risk of cold-related mortality is at its highest point because of the strain it puts on the lungs and heart.
Humidity and Wind
Often, humidity and wind can have an effect on the lungs as well. With wind resistance, tasks such as simply walking can become laboring endeavors, and as humidity in the air increases, the air becomes denser which creates more resistance in airflow to the lungs. An increase in sputum production creating further blockages in the lungs is a common occurrence in cold weather conditions as well. Unfortunately, these effects are often compounded, as even a few weeks under these conditions can further add to vulnerability.
How to Combat the Cold
Now that you understand the dangers, it’s time to fight back with a few simple tips for keeping your lungs in the best condition this winter.
- Don’t burn wood on stoves or fireplaces to avoid smoke build-up
- If the weather is poor, change your schedule to avoid it when possible
- If using oxygen, keep your oxygen hose under your coat to keep the air as warm as possible
- When it’s cold outside, use a scarf or face mask over your nose and mouth and breathe through your nose. This will warm the air before it enters your lungs.
Although living with COPD and other respiratory illnesses can be a difficult endeavor in cold-weather climates and at large, there is hope. As technology increases, discoveries in science and medicine are being made every day. Currently, stem cell therapy stands alone as the only treatment option that works to promote healing within the body in order to directly affect the diseases’ progression and mortality.
If you’re looking to make a profound change in your life or the life of someone you love, the time is now. If you or a loved one suffers from COPD, or another lung disease, the Lung Institute may be able to help with a variety of stem cell treatment options. Contact us at (800) 729-3065 to find out if you qualify for stem cell therapy.
Is your health affected by cold weather? We want to hear from you! Share your thoughts and comments on How Cold Weather Affects COPD below.
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