The summer heat is rough on everybody, especially those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and the elderly, and often those with COPD are over the age of 55. The storms and humidity can also have an ill effect on the lungs of people with chronic lung diseases, so you will need to known what to do to prevent difficulty breathing during the warm months.
Danger: Extreme Heat
Extreme temperatures put our bodies under stress, and sudden changes in temperature can wreak havoc on the lungs of people with COPD or asthma. When we get too hot or too cold, our bodies work harder to maintain 98.6 degrees. Even if you are outside in the hot sun just for a few minutes, your body can start to feel weaker and you will begin to have a hard time breathing. When your body works harder to maintain temperature, it starts drawing and requiring more oxygen. If you have COPD, you know how important it is to maintain the right level of oxygen in your blood.
What to Do: Stay indoors in the air conditioning as much as possible, but don't go overboard with the AC. Keep it around 72 degrees indoors, since you don't want to go from one extreme to the other when you do step out of the house.
It's unrealistic to expect someone to just stay inside all summer, so you will need to plan ahead when you go somewhere. Check the extended weather forecast for your area and try to plan for going out when the temperatures are cooler, or during the evening hours. Wear a hat to shade yourself from the sun's heat, and stay in the shade. Keep a cold bottle of water with you at all times to help keep you cool from the inside.
High humidity levels can make it even harder to breathe, because the moisture in the air makes the air feel thicker. This can also be bad for your oxygen concentrator, if the levels go above a certain percent – 95% for many, but it can also be as low as 60%, depending on the model.
What to Do: Use the same safety measures you would use to protect yourself from high temperatures. If you are using an oxygen concentrator, you should be staying indoors while using it. Using your concentrator outside while the humidity level is high will quickly cause more wear and tear on your machine.
Danger: Low Barometric Pressure
Low barometric pressure has the same effect as being at high altitudes in making it difficult to breath. People with chronic lung diseases will know when there is a drop in pressure, because they will begin having more trouble than usual. When a summer storm system moves in, the barometric pressure will drop dramatically.
What to Do: Take preventative measures when the forecast calls for stormy weather. Try to take it easy on those days, and keep your rescue inhaler near by. Aerosol inhalers will only work to their full capabilities between temperatures of 50 and 80 degrees, so keep this in mind.
Late spring allergies and late summer allergies can be dangerous for people with COPD, since allergic rhinitis can irritate the lungs and cause an exacerbation, or worsening of COPD.
What to Do: Pay attention to the weather forecast's high pollen alerts, and take your allergy medications ahead of time before your symptoms even start. If your allergies to ragweed and other types of pollen are moderate to severe, ask your doctor for a prescription allergy medication.
When you go outside on days when the pollen count is high, be sure to remove your clothing when you come inside for the day and wash them immediately. You will also need to take a shower to get rid of any pollen spores that have hitched a ride in your hair.