How people with COPD can breathe easier during the summer heat

The heat and humidity of summer can put a strain on anyone.

Having breathing issues like COPD increases the problems.

In this week's Moves in Medicine, we have some tips to make the season more bearable.

COPD - chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - is one of the most common diseases in Philadelphia, particularly in the inner city.

"It primarily comes from people that have been cigarette smokers a long time," says Susan Estrella-Eades, a nurse practitioner at Temple Health.

Estrella-Eades says it's also more common among people working with chemicals or at oil refineries.

"Chronic inflammation limits air flow in and out of the lungs. (It creates a) feeling like they can't get a big enough breath into their lungs."

And COPD sufferers are especially susceptible to the weather.

"We'll frequently hear that I can't breathe in the very cold and I can't breathe in the very hot weather," Dr. Estrella-Eades says.

Breathing hot, humid, heavy air takes more effort, so patients start breathing a little faster.

"That leads to them feeling more breathless," Dr. Estrella-Eades says. "It becomes very important for them to kind of plan their day, almost, around the weather."

First, she says it's important that COPD patients keep up with their maintenance medications.

Schedule appointments or do activities in the morning before the sun reaches its peak.

And travel prepared.

Dr. Estrella-Eades advises: "Bring a lot of water with you, take frequent rest breaks, try to sit in the shade, wear loose clothing, not tight clothing, thinner material like linen."

A battery-powered personal misting fan can be a help.

These measures are especially important with the added stress of wearing masks.

"Those softer cotton masks will be a little bit more breathable for them and easier to use," says Dr. Estrella-Eades.

Dr. Estrella-Eades says staying in air conditioning as much as possible can also help you breathe easier.
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