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Arbor Hospice offers winter weather lung disease tips

(Chelsea Update would like to thank Jaclyn Klein of Arbor Hospice for the information in this story.)

Winter continues to pummel Michigan with extreme temperatures and record-breaking levels of snow.

While this weather may give you reason to gripe, it poses an extra challenge for those living with respiratory ailments, such as congestive obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

Arbor Hospice and Arbor Palliative Care recognize these challenges and makes several suggestions to patients and caregivers.

“Changes in weather can trigger COPD symptoms to suddenly worsen or flare-up,” said Adam Marks, MD, Arbor Palliative Care Medical Director. “Cold weather may cause a person’s airway to tighten, restricting airflow. This can be especially dangerous for individuals with respiratory ailments. These temperatures may cause people with COPD to feel exhausted, short of breath, cough more frequently or produce more phlegm. But there are ways for individuals to reduce the risk of a flare-up.”

Arbor Palliative Care offers the following tips for individuals living with COPD during the winter months:

  1. Minimize the cold as much as possible by avoiding the outdoors. When you go outside, remember to dress accordingly. Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf or mask. Individuals with COPD are more susceptible to complications such as pneumonia.
  2. Preparation is important. Before temperatures drop and the snow begins to fall, make sure you are prepared. Buy extra groceries so you will not have to brave the elements. Get a flu shot to prevent unnecessarily illness.
  3. Avoid smoke exposure. Cigarette smoke, in of itself is an irritant to individuals with lung diseases. When paired with cold air, COPD symptoms are much more common. Similar to cigarette smoke, smoke and particles from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces can irritate airways. Try using an energy-efficient electric heater to stay warm.
  4. Make sure furnace filters are clean so the air in your home is not hurting your breathing. It is also a good idea to have your furnace and ductwork cleaned to eliminate dust and remove airborne contaminants.
  5. Make sure your doors, windows and fireplace are properly sealed to eliminate drafts.
  6. Maintain a normal humidity level inside your home. The air humidity should ideally be at 40 percent and can be maintained with a humidifier.
  7. If you go outside, place oxygen tubing (if you use it) inside your clothing to keep the air as warm as possible.

People living with serious illness, such as COPD, who experience ongoing pain or other distressing symptoms may be eligible for palliative care.

Palliative care is specialized medical care that focuses on relief of symptoms, including shortness of breath, cough and exhaustion. Palliative care works alongside other medical care to prevent and alleviate symptoms in order to improve quality of life.

It is appropriate at any age and any stage of an illness.

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