Getting Through Summer With COPD
COPD patients should constantly be aware of their surroundings and any potential triggers that could exacerbate their disease.
What quite often goes under the radar is heat, barometric pressure and COPD. Like any trigger, a hot humid day can make life difficult for COPD patients.
Why Do I Become Breathless When Summer Arrives?
Remember when you were young and couldn’t wait until summer was here? The beach, swimming and water sports were things we looked forward to. While I still love a day at the beach and participating in summer activities, I find that I have to be a little more aware of what a summer day is going to bring.
Feeling the sun on you is one of life’s great pleasures, and we need vitamin D, but when the humidity starts to rise our airways start to struggle.
As the day becomes hotter and the humidity in the air rises and as a result becomes more dense, the air passing in and out our airways becomes restricted. The result for COPD patients is a worsening of symptoms.
A 2014 study, presented at the American Thoracic Society International Conference, highlighted the increase in symptoms for patients when exposed to higher temperatures both inside and outside the home. Researchers noted that the study's results have important implications for the treatment of COPD as the climate gradually becomes warmer.
My own experience when exercising shows big differences in my performance between summer and winter. When running or cycling in summer my heart rate is elevated, which in turn exacerbates my COPD symptoms.
I become breathless and experience a rise in the amount of mucus I produce. From this, my oxygen levels start to fluctuate and exercise has to be slowed. In cooler weather it’s the extract opposite; I'm able to exercise to a greater level as I don't suffer the effects of heat and humidity.
What's the Answer?
Until researchers can find a solution to this widespread problem for COPD patients we have to take measures to limit our exposure. That doesn't necessarily mean locking ourselves indoors for the summer holidays but it does mean being prepared.
Looking at weather forecasts and planning your daily activities around the weather can reduce your exposure. For me it means exercising in the early morning or late afternoon. This way I'm avoiding the heat and humidity during the middle of the day.