Back to news

​Taking care of your COPD in winter

We're urging people with existing lung conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to keep warm in winter.

COPD happens when the lungs and airways become damaged and inflamed. It's a disease that's usually associated with long-term exposure to harmful substances such as cigarette smoke.

In fact, it's thought that smoking is responsible for around 9 in every 10 cases.

Temperature and weather can cause COPD symptoms to worsen. Cold, dry air or hot air can trigger a flare-up. And if the temperature dips below freezing, it can be particularly challenging. 

But there are steps that you can take to reduce the impact of cold weather and keep your lungs as healthy as possible over the winter months.

Dr Charles Gostling, Senior Clinical Director for NHS Lewisham CCG said: "The most important thing if you do smoke, is to quit – and the NHS can help you to do that.

"But there are other things that will ease your condition too, such as keeping warm, taking medication and making sure you have the annual flu jab and the one-off pneumococcal vaccination."

The top tips during cold weather are:

Keep warm

·       Wear layers of clothing. It's easy to forget how quickly the cold can affect you. Items such as thermal underwear can be very useful, as can woollen tights and socks. If you do need to leave the house, check the weather forecast.

Keep your home warm

·       Keeping your home warm is essential. The optimum room temperature is around 21 degrees in the living room, around 18 in the bedroom. And it's a good idea to keep your bedroom warm before going to bed, making sure you stay comfortable throughout the night. Body temperature drops during sleep.

Keep active

·       Keep as active as possible. This can help by keeping the blood circulating and the body warm. Appropriate exercise is generally good for strengthening lung health at any time of year – if you have a lung condition, your doctor will be able to advise you of a suitable level of exercise for you, and local places where you can do this if you can't do it in the home.

Plan ahead with your medication

·       If you're on medication, you should carry it with you. And if you've been prescribed a bronchodilator, you should use it half an hour before leaving the house, to prevent the cold weather causing a sudden tightening of the airways when you're out.

Breathe easy

·       If you breathe through your nose instead of our mouth, this may be helpful as this will warm the air before it reaches the lungs. And if possible, you should also wear a hood or scarf that covers the nose and mouth on particularly cold days.

Get vaccinated

·       Anyone with a lung condition should contact their GP to take advantage of the annual free flu vaccine they are entitled to and the one-off free pneumococcal vaccination.

Dr Gostling said: "The winter can be a challenging time for people with COPD but there are steps that you can take to look after yourself, ease the condition and avoid a trip to A&E."

For more information about COPD, visit the NHS website.

For help to quit smoking visit the Lewisham Stop Smoking Service here