Extreme temperatures can lead to shortness of breath (dsypnea) as your body works extra hard and requires more oxygen to maintain a normal body temperature. It is important for you to keep track of the local weather reports to prevent levels of dsypnea from increasing, especially during these hot summer months.
Heat, humidity and temperature changes may affect the COPD patient more than the person without a lung condition. When the temperature rises, one can become exhausted more easily and can increase chances of an exacerbation or difficulty with shortness of breath, Suzann Pruitt, BS, RRT, AE-C, a respiratory therapist and asthma educator, says.
The warm air causes the airways in lungs to constrict, leading to a bronchospasm. The bronchioles, tubes that flow into and out of the lungs, become inflamed and contract in response to triggers, such as warmer air. This causes the airways in the lungs to become smaller, making it harder for air to pass into and out of the body. This can be discouraging for folks living in hot climates, but there are many precautions individuals with COPD can take to have a more comfortable, breathe-easy summer.
I tell my patients if they use oxygen, to carefully monitor their tank pressures during changes in weather and if they feel they are requiring more oxygen, to see their doctor immediately to avoid exacerbation. I request that they keep a diary of when they feel more short of breath to see trends in this area, Pruitt says.
She also advises individuals to continue their exercise regimens, but to be aware of the time they choose to work out.
I remind them to do their exercising before it gets too hot to avoid over exposure to heat that can cause stress and exacerbations of their COPD. Humidity can increase fatigue and when the barometric pressures rise, a patient with COPD can feel more shortness of breath, she says.
Barometric pressure is a measure of the weight of the atmosphere, and can be felt by pressure in the air. Warm air holds more moisture than cold. ?e moisture, or water molecules, take up volume in the air causing a reduction the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. Humid air has a similar effect: the more wet the air is, the less oxygen.
Remember: even if it is hot and humid, the weather does not have to defeat you.
I remind my patients that COPD is treatable and their symptoms will improve with proper use of treatments from their doctor. A care plan and diary are key to reducing symptoms and avoiding an exacerbation, Pruitt says. Learning breathing exercises assists with shortness of breath by breathing more efficiently using the pursed lip breathing, for example. Also, maintaining a healthy diet is very important with a COPD patient because it allows the body to recover from illness better.