Wellness & Education

Managing COPD in the Heat of Summer

If you have COPD, you probably already know that summer heat can make your disease harder to deal with.

Being in hot weather may not feel like exercise, but the two have at least one thing in common. In hot weather, and during a workout, your body uses more energy than normal. While exercising, your body is using energy to move. In the heat, your body is using extra energy to maintain your body temperature.

When your body uses more energy, it needs more oxygen. This means that both exercise and hot weather can make your body work harder to get more air into your lungs. If you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), hot weather can make breathing more difficult.

Summer also brings additional issues for people who have COPD:

  • Breathing in hot air can  make the passages in your airways contract, which makes it harder for air to pass through them.
  • Smog and pollution often increase in summer, which can make breathing more difficult for someone with a respiratory condition.
  • Plant allergens associated with the growing season can make COPD worse.
  • High humidity only adds to the problem.

Since you can’t control the weather, what are your alternatives? What can you do about the effects of heat, smog, shortness of breath, allergens and humidity?

Air conditioning is a great way to beat the heat if you don’t mind staying indoors. If you crave fresh air, try going outside in the morning or evening, when temperatures are lower. If you must go outside in the heat, stick to the shade. On days when air quality indices are elevated for your area, try to avoid going outdoors.  AQI Basics | AirNow.gov Rushville Air Quality Index (AQI) and Indiana Air Pollution | IQAir

When indoors, don’t forget to change or clean your air conditioning filter. Using an indoor air purifier also helps with pollution and allergens. Use a dehumidifier to help with humidity.

As summer heats up, have a plan to manage your COPD. Stock up on allergy prescriptions. Keep your inhaler close. Drink plenty of fluids to help keep yourself cool. Dress for the weather.