Winter is a time for snuggling inside warm, cozy homes, playing games, and working on indoor hobbies, such as knitting or crafting. It’s a time for outdoor activities, such as snowmobiling or skiing. Yet if you have a disease like COPD, winter is also a time to be vigilant for winter COPD triggers, which may increase your risk of a COPD flare-up.
So, some things to watch out for are…
1. ack of ventilation. It may feel nice and cozy snuggled all together in a warm room with all the windows covered, yet this also creates a cozy environment for germs. When little Bobby comes home with a cold, the virus or bacteria has nowhere to go but inside you.
2. Colds, influenza, and pneumonia. Viral and bacterial infections are common causes of COPD flare-ups. Considering COPD patients may have excessive secretions already in their lungs, this may sometimes lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is the most common cause of unscheduled medical visits, either at the office or hospital.
3.** Smoke from fireplaces or woodstoves**. Sorry, but while the warm air wafting from a blazing fire in the fireplace may feel good, it is also a very common winter COPD trigger. Mold that grows on firewood may also be a trigger. So it’s best to forgo wood heat for some other method.
4. Cigarette smoke. As we’ve discussed before, it’s not the nicotine that harms you, it’s the 10,000 other chemicals inside a cigarette. Quitting smoking is the No. 1 best way to prevent COPD flare-ups. Not quitting is the top cause of flare-ups in any season. For tips to quit smoking click here.
5.** Dust**. Dust particles, whether they contain little rascals called dust mites or not, can easily be inhaled and irritate already inflamed tissues lining COPD airways. Keep in mind there are unexpected places you might find dust, such as on on carpet, upholstered furniture, old books, Christmas trees and inside storage bins and boxes.
6.** Cabin Fever**. Spending all your time indoors, and not getting enough sunlight, may influence your mood, causing an unhappy feeling (depression) and an inpatient feeling (anxiety) to get outdoors. Studies have shown that depression increases the risk of flare-ups, and anxiety nearly doubles that risk.
7. Not taking medicine. Not only that, but cabin fever (depression, anxiety) may increase the risk that you might not feel like taking your medicine today. Since this medicine is what helps you to stay healthy, not taking it may lead to a flare-up.
While you won’t want this to consume your life, it’s always important to be somewhat vigilant to the surroundings around you in order to avoid COPD triggers and flare-ups. The best way to keep your body healthy, and to prevent and treat flare-ups, is to work with your physician and follow your COPD Action Plan.
A Registered Respiratory Therapist and asthmatic