Very cold weather, or very hot weather, can affect your lungs in different ways. There are some things you can do to help stay well.
Hot weather and your lungs
If you have a lung condition, then hot weather can make it worse. Here are some tips to help you keep cool:
- Avoid going outside during the hottest times of day 12-2pm
- Avoid excessive physical activity, or do it in the cooler ends of the day.
- Keep the windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside. If safe, open windows at night when the air is cooler.
- Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
- Drink water or fruit juice regularly (avoid alcohol, tea or coffee).
- Wear loose, cool clothing and a hat if you go outdoors and remember to take any medication that you might need with you.
- Avoid areas of high pollution – sunlight can react with pollutants to form especially harmful substances such as ozone and oxides of nitrogen
- You can check pollution levels in your area by ringing 0800 556677 (for free) or visit airquality.co.uk
- Make sure you drink plenty of water
- If you suffer from hay fever during the summer months you can check the pollen count
If you are worried, please call the British Lung Foundation's helpline on 03000 030 555.
Cold weather and your lungs
Cold weather can also make a lung condition worse. These ideas will help you to stay healthy during the winter months.
- Make sure you keep warm by wearing layers of clothing when it’s cold - thermal underwear can be very useful, along with woollen tights and socks and make sure you have a blanket or shawl to hand
- Wear warm nightclothes during very cold weather
- Try and stay as active as possible to generate heat - get up, move around and try to do some exercise
- 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
- Check the weather before going out and elderly patients are advised to stay indoors as much as possible and keep warm
- If you have a bronchodilator, use it half an hour before going outside
- 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
- 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
- It is wise for patients with chronic lung conditions such as COPD or severe asthma to have the seasonal flu jab
For advice about looking after your lungs in cold weather, including information on winter fuel payments, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 (Mon to Fri, 10am to 6pm).
Top tips for parents and their children
- Inform your doctor if your or your child’s asthma gets worse during the winter season
- If your child (over six months) has a lung disease their condition may get worse if they get flu so you should speak to your GP about the flu vaccine
We encourage all patients with a chronic lung condition to visit their GP and get their annual flu jab from November onwards.
A seasonal flu vaccine is available free if you are over 65, have a serious medical condition or live in a residential home.
Will I get side-effects from the vaccine?
The seasonal flu jab does not usually cause side-effects, although it can cause mild fever and slight muscle aches for a day or so. Flu immunisation cannot cause flu, as there is no active virus in a flu vaccine. Allergic reactions to the vaccine are also rare.
Seasonal flu – the symptoms
Symptoms of seasonal flu include a sudden fever (a temperature of 38°C/100.4°F or above); dry, chesty cough; headache; tiredness; chills; aching muscles or limb or joint pain; diarrhoea or stomach upset; sore throat; runny or blocked nose; and loss of appetite. Babies and small children with flu may also appear drowsy, unresponsive and floppy.
If you have a chronic lung disease and are experiencing symptoms, we would encourage you to contact your GP immediately.