Best Weather for COPD
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) involves damage to the air sacs in the lungs. That damage makes the lungs sensitive to various factors, including the weather. So, what is the best weather for COPD where flare-ups may not be as repetitive? We’ll get to that.
Everyone with COPD has their own unique course with the disease. For some people, changes in the weather may not contribute to COPD symptoms. But for others, certain types of weather conditions make COPD worse.
The Connection Between COPD and Weather
There is a connection between weather and an increase in COPD symptoms for some individuals. Everything from sudden changes in temperatures to the wind can play a role in a flare-up of symptoms.
People with COPD have sensitive airways. The damage to the lungs makes them more susceptible to irritation from things in their environment.
Weather changes can increase common COPD symptoms, such as:
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest tightness.
- Increased mucus production.
Can Certain Types of Weather Trigger COPD Symptoms?
Certain types of weather may lead to an increase in COPD symptoms more frequently. Since everyone is different, what bothers one person may not cause problems for another. But in general, sudden changes in weather, such as temperature shifts, may be the culprit for certain people with COPD. Also, a rapid change in barometric pressure can lead to an increase in COPD symptoms.
Worst Weather for COPD
There is no one specific type of weather that is always worse for individuals with COPD. People have different triggers. But in general, the types of weather below tend to cause a flare-up of symptoms for many people with lung disease.
Cold air is often also dry. The combination of cold, dry air can irritate the lining of the lungs. Cold air can dry out the mucus membranes, which can cause symptoms to flare.
If the air is too dry, it can lead to COPD symptoms. But the opposite is also true. If the humidity level is too high, it can make it harder to breathe. When increased work of breathing occurs, it can lead to decreased oxygen levels, fatigue and shortness of breath.
Windy weather can blow allergens, such as pollen or mold spores, into the air. These allergens may trigger an increase in symptoms.
When temperatures climb, it can make breathing harder for people with COPD. According to the American Lung Association, a study by John Hopkins University found that as temperatures increase, the number of visits to the emergency room for respiratory-related symptoms also increases for people over the age of 65.
The exact reason why hot weather may be linked to hospital visits is not completely clear, but one theory is that breathing hot air may increase airway inflammation. Also, levels of smog and air pollution often increase in the warm summer weather.
COPD is progressive; this means many people with COPD eventually develop hypoxemia, which may result in the need to use oxygen.
What is the Best Weather for COPD?
It appears that extreme temperatures, including weather too cold or too hot, may make COPD symptoms worse. When it comes to the best weather for COPD, it is moderate temperatures.
The definition of moderate temperature may vary. But on average, temperatures between 60F to 70F may be best for someone with COPD. In addition, moderate humidity levels are also optimal.
According to Centers for Respiratory Health, a 40% humidity level is best for someone with COPD. A moderate level of humidity can help relax the airways and reduce COPD symptoms.
How Can COPD Patients Cope With Weather That Might Trigger Symptoms?
We cannot control the weather, but there are several things you can do to cope with symptoms triggered by the weather. Consider the following tips:
- Plan ahead: Checking out the weather forecast can help you plan your day. On days where the weather may increase your symptoms, avoid spending too much time outside. Also, when you are traveling, if possible, gradually get used to the weather a little at a time.
- Cover your nose and mouth: If you have to deal with cold or windy weather, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf. This will help warm the air before you breathe in.
- Check air quality: The weather is not only about temperatures and rainfall. The pollution level can also affect breathing. Consider checking the air quality in your area at AirNow.
- Stay indoors: This may seem like a no-brainer, but if the weather is too hot or too humid, consider staying indoors in air conditioning when possible.
- Control the COPD triggers you can: Certain triggers of COPD, such as the weather, are not controllable. But you can control some things that may increase symptoms. For example, avoid cigarette smoke and reduce exposure to strong scents and fumes.
- Use a fast-acting bronchodilator as prescribed: If you develop a flare-up of COPD, consider using a fast-acting bronchodilator, such as albuterol, to ease symptoms. If you are using your fast-acting bronchodilator several times a day, talk with your doctor. You may need a long-acting medication.