Summer Strategies for COPD Patients: Maximizing Fun and Minimizing Exacerbations

Senior family members are picnicking in park, having meal, eating cake, drinking fruit juice, enjoying a small white dog, held in arms by a blond lady.

The sun is out, the weather is warm, and it’s time to get outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. However, the summer months can present unique challenges for individuals with chronic lung diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Coping with the heat, humidity, and potential triggers can be overwhelming. Still, with proper planning, you can make the most of the season while prioritizing your respiratory health. Here are nine tips to help you have a safe, healthy, and fun summer.

Stay Hydrated:

Hot weather can lead to dehydration. When your body is dehydrated, your airways become dry and inflamed, and your body can create more mucus, putting you at risk for an exacerbation. Make it a habit to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, preferably water, to keep your body well-hydrated. Limit or avoid beverages containing caffeine or alcohol, which can contribute to dehydration.

Plan Outdoor Activities Wisely:

Enjoying the outdoors is one of the best parts of summer. Plan your activities during the cooler parts of the day, typically early morning or evening. Avoid going out during the hottest hours, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when high temperatures and increased pollution levels can strain your lungs. Try to find shaded areas or carry an umbrella to shield yourself from direct sunlight.

Dress Appropriately:

Choose lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabrics like cotton or linen. These materials allow air circulation, preventing excessive perspiration and discomfort. Additionally, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.

Manage Indoor Environments:

Ensure your indoor environment is comfortable and conducive to easy breathing. Keep your living space well-ventilated, use air conditioning or fans to maintain a cool temperature, and consider using air purifiers to minimize indoor pollutants. Avoid exposure to strong chemical odors or irritants, such as paint or cleaning products, which can trigger respiratory symptoms.

Stay Informed about Air Quality:

Keep track of the air quality index (AQI) in your area, as high pollution levels can worsen COPD symptoms. Several smartphone applications and websites provide real-time air quality information. If the AQI is poor, consider adjusting your plans or staying indoors to reduce exposure.

Carry Medications and Emergency Contacts:

Always carry your prescribed medications with you, including inhalers and any additional medications recommended by your healthcare provider. Ensure you have an emergency contact list, including your healthcare professional’s phone number, the number of your local Rotech office, and local emergency services.

Seek Shade and Take Breaks:

During outdoor activities, take regular breaks to rest and seek shade. Overexertion and excessive heat can strain your respiratory system. Listen to your body and pace yourself accordingly!

Avoid Smoke and Other Triggers:

Smoke, including smoke from grills, barbecues, or fireworks, can worsen COPD symptoms. Stay away from areas where smoking is permitted, and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Similarly, be cautious around strong fragrances, chemicals, and other known triggers that can irritate your lungs.

Prioritize Self-Care:

Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s allowing you to be the best version of yourself! Prioritize self-care to maintain your overall well-being. Get adequate rest, eat a healthy diet, and find things you enjoy that promote relaxation and reduce stress.