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Don’t let the warmer weather take your breath away

15th August 2016 | By Liz Mattock | Posted in

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 5,500 people in Leicester City living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), it’s not such a pleasant time.

GPs from Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are advising COPD patients how to look after themselves and keep themselves safe and well as temperatures are set to hit the high twenties this week, between 90 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat, humidity and sudden changes in weather can make it harder to breathe and trigger symptoms, such as shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing, all associated with COPD.

Dr Rajesh Kapur, GP Lead at Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group, 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.”

Some basic precautions can help to manage the condition.  Taking medication as prescribed, even if symptoms have improved.  Continuous medication can help prevent flare-ups.  Any questions or concerns can be answered by the GP or Practice Nurse.

“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 .  This operates in England from 1 June to 15 September each year, so people can plan their activities during times when the weather is not as hot.

Top tips from Dr Kapur, include:

  • Protect yourself by keeping your body cool.
  • Make sure you do not burn when you are in the sun by wearing 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.
  • Plan your day. Plan your day in a way that allows you to stay out of the heat. If possible, avoid going out in the hottest part of the day (between 11am and 3pm). 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.  Also remember to open windows at night for ventilation. If you are worried about security, only open windows on the first floor and above, or fit security locks that allow windows to be locked in an open position for ventilation.
  • 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.

Finally, remaining active is crucial to maintaining a healthy, positive lifestyle and may reduce shortness of breath.  So if the summer months require you to stay indoors on days that are too hot or humid, find alternative ways to stay active.

For more information about living with COPD, visit the Leicester City CCG website http://bit.ly/2bafrVg.

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