Keeping well in the cold: What you can do

Health professionals are encouraging people in Norfolk and Waveney with respiratory conditions to stay well this winter.

People with respiratory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or asthma can be particularly susceptible to the effects of cold weather, finding themselves shorter of breath or coughing more than usual.

Sam Oughton, COPD Nurse Specialist based in King’s Lynn, says: “If you have a long term health condition, particularly a lung condition, cold weather can trigger a flare up of symptoms as well as making someone more vulnerable to illness.

“If you know someone, a friend or a neighbour with COPD, or a lung condition, or anyone vulnerable to cold weather, do look out for them – have they collected their milk from the doorstep? Opened their curtains? Turned their lights on/off, or cleared their path of ice or snow?”

Every winter, GP surgeries and hospitals see an increase in visits from people with respiratory conditions. If you have a lung disease, here are some tips to help look after your lungs this winter.

Feeling unwell? Don’t wait

  • If you have a lung condition and are feeling unwell (onset of cold symptoms) don’t wait - seek advice from your local pharmacist, nurse or doctor.
  • Follow your self-management plan if you have one (patients with COPD should have one - if not ask your GP surgery/nurse for one).

Get the flu jab and avoid contact with people who have cold symptoms

  • Ensure you have both the flu and pneumonia vaccinations and avoid people with cold symptoms where possible.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and encourage other people around you to do the same.
  • Throw away used tissues as soon as you can and wash hands regularly.

Stay warm

  • Heat your home to at least 18c or even warmer if you don’t move around much or feel the cold.
  • Keep your bedroom warm and the window closed at night as breathing in cold air can increase the risk of a respiratory infection.
  • Wear layers of clothing as these trap the warm air better than one bulky layer, wear a hat indoors if needed, and keep a blanket nearby.
  • If you are unable to move around much make up a hot flask and have hot drinks/soup throughout day. Try and have one hot meal a day.

When you’re out and about

  • Check the weather report. If it is too cold or windy for you or you are not feeling well or are having trouble breathing stay indoors and keep warm.
  • If you do go out take reliever medication 30 mins before going out to help prevent cold air tightening the airways.
  • Wear a scarf/snood to cover your mouth and cheeks to stop the cold air tightening your airways.

The British Lung Foundation offers advice to anyone living with or supporting someone with a lung condition. For more information call their helpline on 03000 030 555 or visit their website