Don't let the hot weather take your breath away

Date: 18 August 2016

Avoid the heat by staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day

Most of us love the summer months.  It helps to improve our mood and gives us a feeling of wellbeing. 

But, if you’re one of the 900,000 people in the UK living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it’s not such a pleasant time. Heat, humidity and sudden changes in weather can make it harder to breathe and trigger symptoms, such as shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing.

So, if you or one of your loved ones is affected by COPD it’s important to know how to manage symptoms in the warmer months by following basic precautions and help avoid the need to call us here at the ambulance service on 999.

Our Deputy Medical Director Dr. Tom Davis said: “During the heat of summer, the body has to use extra energy to try and cool itself down in order to maintain a normal body temperature. This extra energy causes the body to demand more oxygen.

“If you have COPD, you’re already using much of your energy just to breathe, not to mention everything else that you do during the day.  So, it’s not uncommon to experience a greater level of shortness of breath when you’re exposed to extreme temperatures, as your body is forced to use more energy while it struggles to maintain your body temperature.

“Many plants and allergens can make COPD worse. So, be aware of what affects you and talk to your doctor about selecting allergy medications or inhalers that will best support your breathing in the summer heat.  COPD shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying all that summer has to offer.”

Some basic precautions can help manage your condition:

  • Take your medication as prescribed, even if you start to feel better - continuous medication can help prevent flare-ups
  • Get support from family and friends if you live alone. Make arrangements with family or friends to check on you regularly during extreme temperatures
  • Check the weather forecast regularly. The Met Office’s weather forecast and Heat-Health watch is at www.metoffice.gov.uk so you can plan your activities during times when the weather is not as hot
  • Protect yourself by keeping your body cool. Wear a sun screen that protects against UVA and UVB rays and keep hydrated throughout the day
  • Drink at least eight glasses of water a day and eat more cold food, particularly salads and fruit which contain water
  • If possible, avoid going out in the hottest part of the day (between 11am-pm). Stay in the coolest rooms in your home as much as possible
  • Keep windows closed while the room is cooler than outside of the house. Open them when the temperature inside rises, and close the curtains in rooms that are in the full glare of the sun
  • Have regular showers or baths and splash yourself several times a day with cold water, particularly on your face and the back of your neck.

    For more information about living with COPD, visit www.nhs.uk 
  • Summary:

    Most of us love the summer months.  It helps to improve our mood and gives us a feeling of wellbeing. But, if you’re one of the 900,000 people in the UK living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it’s not such a pleasant time.