With winter on our doorstep, many of us are looking forward to the beauty of the season and the unique social and recreational activities that only winter can offer. But cold weather, and particularly cold air, can play havoc with your lungs and health. Here are some tips and tools to help you enjoy the winter weather, without putting your lungs at risk.
Cold air is often dry air, and for many, especially those with chronic lung disease, that can spell trouble. Dry air can irritate the airways of people with asthma, COPD or bronchitis. This can cause things that get in the way of winter fun, like wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. To help protect yourself from cold, dry air:
- Take all medications as prescribed.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf when going out in the cold.
- Avoid exercising outdoors in severe cold weather.
- Get your flu shot. Immunization is your best protection.
- Wash your hands. As a good rule of thumb, get rid of germs by scrubbing your hands under warm, soapy water for about 30 seconds, or long enough to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice in your head.
- If you have chronic lung disease, such as COPD or asthma, stay away from people with colds and flu.
“It now seems that grandma was right after all, getting a chill can predispose a person to respiratory infection including pneumonia,” says American Lung Association Senior Scientific Advisor, Norman H. Edelman, M.D. “As she would have recommended, dress warmly, keep your feet dry and your head covered.”