On World COPD day we are sharing advice from the British Lung Foundation to everyone who has the condition to help you manage your symptoms.
Cold weather can trigger a flare-up of your symptoms and make you more vulnerable to illnesses. But there are things you can do to look after your lungs this winter.
Get a flu jab every year
Read why Carol, Jean and Laura, who all live with a lung condition, get the flu vaccine every year.
Flu can be a serious illness, especially if you’re living with a lung condition. That’s why people with long-term conditions are eligible for a free flu jab. Don’t put it off. When autumn arrives, ask your GP or pharmacist about getting a free flu jab. Having a flu jab reduces the risk that you will need to be admitted to hospital.
Get a one-off anti-pneumonia vaccination
If you’ve not already had one, ask about a pneumonia jab. It’s recommended if you have a long-term lung condition such as COPD, bronchiectasis or pulmonary fibrosis. You should be offered one if you’re over 65.
If you can, avoid contact with people who have cold symptoms
Cold and flu infections spread very easily. So, if your friends and family are full of cold, it’s best to wave to them through the window! You should tell your friends and family that if they have a cold of flu they shouldn’t visit. This can be hard, but it’s important to look after your own health.
Catching a cold or another infection can trigger your symptoms to get worse or your condition to flare up.
If you catch a cold, watch out for symptoms that get worse. Make sure you know what to do if you become breathless or start to cough up phlegm. Make sure you have numbers on hand for your out of hours GP or specialist in case you need to contact them.
Here are some other tips to reduce the risk of catching and spreading infections:
- cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and encourage other people around you to do the same
- if you don’t have a tissue, cough into your elbow or the crook of your arm to reduce the spread of germs
- throw away used tissues as soon as you can
- wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser gel if you’re out and about
Take care of your general wellbeing
In winter, it’s normal to feel more tired, sleep more, put on weight and generally feel low. These are also common symptoms of depression. It’s important you take the time to look after your mental health. Try to stay in touch with your friends and family by phone and keep as active as you can.
It’s especially important during winter you eat a nutritionally balanced and varied diet. Foods and fluids contain essential nutrients to help prevent infections and keep you and your lungs healthy. Read more about eating well for your lungs.
When you’re out and about
Check the weather before you go out. If it’s too cold or breezy for you or you are not feeling well or are having trouble breathing, stay indoors and keep warm. Keep an eye on humidity levels as well, as high humidity might affect your breathing. When out and about, make sure to keep your extremities (head, hands and feet) warm by wearing a hat, gloves and even an extra pair of socks if you need to.
- If you have a reliever inhaler, try using it 15 minutes before going outside. Carry your reliever medication with you as cold air can tighten your airways making it harder for you to breathe.
- Try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth as this will help warm the air you breathe in.
- Protect your lungs and airways from cold air by wearing a hood or scarf that covers your mouth. It’s best to use a smooth material that isn’t scratchy if you can.
- If you’re worried about going out in cold weather, ask someone to check up on you or to go with you.
Keep your home warm
Heat your home to at least 18°C (64°F). You might prefer your living room to be slightly warmer during the day – especially if you:
- feel the cold
- know cold air can trigger a flare-up
- are not able to move around easily
If you need help with heating costs, you might be entitled to welfare benefits. Take a look at our guidance on getting help with heating costs.
If you think your home is damp, it’s important to act quickly to find out what’s causing the damp and how to deal with mould.
Take a look at how to prevent condensation in your home. There’s lots of useful tips on how to deal with mould on our sister charity website, Asthma UK.
It’s a good idea to keep your bedroom to at least 18°C (64°F) and to wear warm nightclothes. Keep your bedroom window closed on a winter’s night. Breathing in cold air can increase the risk of respiratory infections.
Keep your body warm by wearing layers of clothing when it’s cold. These trap warm air better than one bulky layer. Thermal underwear can be very useful, along with woollen tights, socks and even a hat. Have a blanket or shawl to hand as well.
Have lots of hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day if you can. Eating regularly helps keep your energy levels up during the winter.
And finally... Did you know you might be able to claim financial help with heating costs? Find out more http://www.blf.org.uk/supp.../welfare-benefits/heating-costs