Lower the Stress on Your Lungs

Martin Garcia-Bunuel, deputy director of the Managed Care Clinical Center at the VA Maryland Health Care System, offers tips for people with lung disease to breathe easier in summer through an Internet press release.

Summer heat, spikes in pollution, fires, smoke and other events causing poor air quality makes breathing a challenge for people with compromised lungs. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that between 1979 and 2003, more than 8,000 people died from heat than died from hurricanes, lightening, floods, and earthquakes combined.

COPD sufferers have inflamed and irritated airways, and breathing hot air can worsen this, causing broncho- spasm, further decreasing the size of the airways and making it more difficult to get air into or out of the lungs.

Tips for Breathing Easy in Summer

  • Use the buddy system: During hot months, make sure to have friends or family members call at least twice per day to make sure you are If you don’t have a phone, be sure to ask neighbors to stop by your home each day.
  • Plan Activities: If possible, stay If you must go outside, do so early in the morning or after the sun goes down. When driving, park in shady areas and use sun protectors in your car.
  • Drink plenty of fluids: During hot months, increase fluid intake regardless of activity level or Drinks such as water, fruit and vegetable juices are best. Avoid drinks with caffeine and alcohol.
  • Keep your indoors cool: If possible, stay indoors in an air-conditioned If you don’t have air con- ditioning, plan to go to places that do, such as libraries, a shopping mall, or a friend or family member’s house. Take cool showers or baths to lower body tempera- ture and avoid activities that require extra energy.
  • Wear appropriate clothing: Choose light weight, light colored, loose fitting clothing. Avoid getting tanned or sunburned because it is more difficult for your body to cool itself if it’s Wear sunscreen every day, whether you are planning to be in direct sunlight or not.
  • Listen to the news: The local news will broadcast heat alert codes for your Those code alerts will tell you whether you must stay in due to poor air quality or high temperatures. If the code alert indicates too-high temps for breathing easy, ask a neighbor, friend or family member to run errands.
  • Keep an adequate supply of medications on hand: In case of bad weather conditions, keep an emergency supply of oxygen, antibiotics and steroids to treat any exacerbations at home.

Dr. Bauer has gone fishing and will be back next issue. He wishes everyone a happy, healthy summer!