For people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the cold winter air can exacerbate the symptoms. Breathing may become more difficult and they may experience an increase in wheezing. They may also cough more and produce more phlegm. Understanding how the body responds to cold air and ways to deals with COPD in the winter can help your senior family member to live more comfortably in the winter.
How the Body Responds to Cold Air
The lungs and heart are connected and their responses to cold air affect one another. When a person breathes, the lungs help the oxygen to enter the bloodstream. Then, the heart pumps the oxygen throughout the body along with the blood. When the weather gets colder, blood vessels narrow. This makes the heart work harder to get blood to all parts of the body. At the same time, the restricted blood flow reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to the heart. At first, the body responds by breathing faster. Later, the breath rate drops drastically.
Managing COPD in Cold Weather
Cold weather doesn’t have to keep seniors from going outside in the winter. There are several things they can do to stay comfortable and breathe easier. Here are some strategies that can help:
- Seniors should wear a scarf or face mask that covers the nose and mouth when they are outside in the cold.
- Remind seniors to breathe through the nose rather than the mouth. This will warm the air before it reaches the lungs.
- Avoid wood burning fireplaces. The smoke can build up and make breathing more difficult.
- When the weather is particularly bad, it may be better to change the schedule and go outside when it’s warmer.
- For seniors who use oxygen, keep the oxygen hose under their coat, which will keep the air warmer.
- It can also help to use a rescue inhaler as a preventative before going outside in cold weather. The inhaler will help the airways to relax and open up.
An elderly care provider can help older adults with COPD to manage their condition during the winter as well. Elderly care providers can remind seniors to dress appropriately for the weather, including a scarf or face mask. They can also assist a senior to put their winter coat on while also covering their oxygen hose. Elderly care providers can also remind seniors to use their rescue inhalers.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elderly care in Park Ridge, IL, please call the caring staff at A-Abiding Care today. Serving North and Northwest Chicago and the surrounding area for over 30 years. Call 847-698-1400.