What's the Answer?
Part of my job entails being outdoors in the heat of summer, and in Australia we can have very hot and humid summers. Days when I'm exposed to the heat I make sure I'm well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. I also take note of shaded areas to go and rest if need be. It comes down to planning and being aware of your surroundings and refuges that can be used to help keep cool.
Plan your day so you’re in air-conditioned buildings or can take advantage of a cool breeze. If you don’t have air conditioning in your home and need to escape during the hottest part of the day, consider going to a shopping center, movie theatre, library or other air-conditioned building. If you are in a work environment make your employer aware of your needs, explaining to them that you'll be far more productive if you’re in a cool, comfortable place.
Making sure you’re well hydrated is important at anytime or year but especially so in summer. A water bottle should be within reach at all times. Sipping water regularly will not only keep your fluids up but help keep you cool.
Clothing will play a part in how well you can deal with the heat, too. Light, well-vented materials designed to keep cool are a great idea. Hats, neck scarves and a head bandana can all help keep the heat out.
While these suggestions may sound obvious, so many times we fail to plan and forget the simple things that can make such a difference to day-to-day life.
Inevitably we’ll have those summer days where the heat seems inescapable, and these days are the most dangerous for worsening of symptoms. It's important to make sensible decisions on these days. If going to work will pose a risk, call your boss and explain the situation; working more flexible hours may be a solution.
If you’re at home it's important to do what can, whether that’s opening windows, pulling down blinds to block direct sunlight or switching on the air conditioning. Most importantly, keep a phone close by; if your symptoms worsen and can't be controlled, it’s to time call for help.
Living in Hot Climates
If, like me, you live in a hot or tropical climate or if you plan to move to such an environment, put some thought into the type of house is most practical for you to live in. Again it comes down to planning, and whether you live in a trailer or a castle creating the right environment to lessen the symptoms of COPD is critical.
Flooring, windows, air conditioning and the position of your home can all make a difference. Reflect on previous experience and apply what you’ve learned to your home. Ask other patients for tips – we have plenty of knowledge from living with the disease!
As COPD patients we don't need a research study to tell us that heat and humidity affects the way we breathe, but what it does do is remind us how important it is to prepare for summer the best we can. Talk with your doctor, family, friends and other patients about how you'll protect yourself from a hot summer season – you’ll be far better prepared to deal with the heat and humidity.