Safety Tips and Safe Summer Activities for People with COPD

The heat of the summer months can be dangerous for people with chronic lung diseases, especially those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Our bodies have to work much harder when the temperature is considerably higher or lower than what our core temperature needs to be at all times. When our bodies have to work harder to maintain homeostasis, we use more oxygen. This is bad for people who already have a hard time getting oxygen throughout their bodies, such as the case for those with COPD (emphysema or chronic bronchitis).

Don't let these facts stop you from having fun this summer, though. There are many things you can do to have fun and protect yourself from exacerbations or other dangers in the process. Just make sure it's safe to exert yourself in physical activity by talking to your doctor first. At the first sign of feeling fatigued or if you start having trouble breathing, stop what you are doing and take a breather. Be sure to keep applying your sunscreen if you are out in the sun. Remember that you can even burn on a cloudy day.

It's All in the Planning

Plan things for the early morning or evening hours when the sun isn't as direct and the heat of the day is waning. Doing anything in the middle of the day, even in the shade, is a bad idea. When the midday temperature is above 85 degrees, this can be enough for people with COPD to have trouble breathing. As the temperature drops toward late afternoon, it should drop enough so that it won't be suffocating. Keep an eye on the weather, as this can vary – sometimes late afternoon temperatures are higher! It you are having a heatwave, wait until it passes.

Fun and Safe Things to Do

Water sports are a great idea, as long as you aren't using oxygen equipment or wearing any other electronics. The water provides great resistance for exercise, and it helps to keep you cool in the process. Inner tube rides down a river are great fun.

If you can't go swimming because you are on constant oxygen therapy, you can still enjoy the beach. Go in the late afternoon to evening or in the early morning and feed the ducks. Walk barefoot in the sand and look for shells.

Water volleyball or gently swimming laps are ideal – you're giving your lungs, heart and muscles a workout without hurting yourself, and you are having fun. Be sure to take breaks to give yourself a rest, and to have more endurance in the long run. An indoor pool might be better if it is very hot outside in general.

Canoeing is something fun to do with a small group of friends in the summer. This is one thing that should definitely be done in the evening, since you will likely be out in the sun for an extended amount of time.

Horseback riding isn't too strenuous for you, and can be very enjoyable especially if you are out in the woods and taking your time. Do it with a group to have the most fun.

Go golfing, or miniature golfing if you aren't keen on the regular kind of golf.
Go to a drive-in theater and enjoy one of the last of these types of movie venues that are going extinct. You won't need to worry about it being too hot, since this is a night time activity only.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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