Breathing and the Weather: Hot, Cold and In Between!

The recent frigid temperatures throughout the coun- try have caused many to stay inside to protect their lungs. Blasts of cold air may narrow your airways and put them into spasm. (Dry, hot air may do the same thing!) Now that Spring is finally in sight, many ask just how does weather affect my breathing? As we have discussed many times, there is no “best” place in the country to live if you have COPD (although many of you have strong opinions on the subject)!he recent frigid temperatures throughout the coun- try have caused many to stay inside to protect their lungs. Blasts of cold air may narrow your airways

Medical research reports those with asthma have more attacks during thunderstorms. This is thought to be related to the strong downdrafts of cold air that stir up grass pollen, which many people with asthma are allergic to. They are also sensitive to high humidity, high pressure, high and low temperatures and lightning strikes.

In an effort to maintain a constant body temperature, you expend additional energy in hot or cold weather conditions which increases the amount of oxygen your body is using. You may experience shortness of breath if you have low oxygen levels.

High humidity is also a cause of increased complaints of shortness of breath. As humidity increases, the density of the air increases which creates more resistance to airflow. Dust mites and molds both increase in high humidity conditions.

As barometric pressure drops, less oxygen is available in the air, as when you travel to higher elevations. The total pressure is less and so the oxygen component is less. A change of just a few points in barometric pressure could increase shortness of breath.

Breathe Better in Any Weather

Rotech Healthcare Inc. recommends the following tips to breathe better in all kinds of weather!

  1. Although you should be doing so already, be even more committed to using all medications and oxygen exactly as ordered by your
  2. During very hot or cold weather, arrange your schedule to go out during times with more moder- ate temperatures. In the summer, try to do your outdoor activity during the early morning or late evening hours when the conditions are more toler- In the winter, try afternoon when it’s warmer.
  3. Use an air conditioner to control indoor tempera- A second benefit of the air conditioner is that it removes a great deal of humidity from the air as it cools it. If an air conditioner is not available, use fans and open windows to circulate the air during hot days. Special programs are available in many communities to offset the cost of fans, air condi- tioners, and even the cost of electricity for the elderly or those with health problems. Check with your area agencies for the elderly for resources in your area.
  4. When going outside during the winter, wear cloth- ing (e.g., scarf) over the nose and mouth to trap warm air and prevent inhaling cold Cold-air masks are available to cover the nose and mouth. Breathing through your nose is more effective than your mouth in warming the air before it reaches your airways.
  5. Many people travel to more favorable climates during periods of difficult If you are con- sidering moving, try going to the new area for an extended period before making a permanent move. Many people have been disappointed after moving when improvements in breathing don’t occur and now they are away from their friends and family.
  6. When possible, decrease allergens/irritants by removing items from your home that produce them.image016
  7. Air filters are available to filter air and they are effective in removing airborne allergens although their role in improving breathing is questionable. The most effective types are those that use a HEPA filter and that have a high air filtration