COPD in the winter months

Winter weather conditions can significantly increase the risk of ill health and hospital admission if you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Supported by the NHS

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the collective name for a group of conditions, including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. Around 900,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with COPD, but it is thought that there are about 3.5 million people living with the disease who have not yet been diagnosed.

If you suffer from COPD it is important to take extra precautions during periods of cold weather to avoid your symptoms getting worse. In winter, a combination of cold weather and virus levels can make your symptoms flare up.

What precautions can I take?

There is a range of different preventative measures you can take to avoid an exacerbation of COPD. Make sure you regularly check our weather forecasts to stay one step ahead of the weather and look out for our Cold Weather Alerts on our website, Twitter feed and via weather forecasts on the TV and radio. Our Cold Weather alerts inform you when cold weather, snow or ice has been forecast to enable you to take the necessary precautions to stay safe and well.

The British Lung Foundation has the following advice to help keep your COPD symptoms at bay:

  • Check the weather before going out and older people are advised to stay indoors as much as possible to keep warm.
  • Make sure you carry your medication with you at all times as cold air can tighten the airways in lung disease patients making it harder to breathe.
  • If you have a bronchodilator, use it half an hour before going outside.
  • Try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth as this will help warm the air.
  • Protect your lungs by wearing a hood or scarf that covers your nose and mouth.
  • Keep warm by wearing layers of clothing when it's cold.
  • Wear warm nightclothes during very cold weather.
  • The recommended temperature in the living room is 21°C (70°F) and 18°C (64°F) in the bedroom.
  • Keep your home well ventilated - air quality inside the home becomes more important in winter as most of us spend more time indoors.
  • Try to stay as active as possible to generate heat - get up, move around and try to do some exercise.
  • It is wise for patients with chronic lung conditions such as COPD or severe asthma to have the seasonal flu jab.

Last updated: 8 October 2013