Why is it important to keep well in the winter?
If you have a long-term respiratory condition such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma your symptoms may get worse with colder weather during winter. To manage your symptoms, you must be ‘weather-wise’. Being weather-wise means:
- Knowing why it is important to manage your condition during the winter.
- Having information to manage your condition during the winter months.
- Making changes to your lifestyle to prevent your condition from getting worse.
If you do notice your respiratory condition becoming worse, get help as soon as possible because the earlier your symptoms are treated, the quicker you will recover.
How can I keep well in winter?
We would recommend that the rooms you use in the daytime are 21 degrees with your bedroom being 18 degrees. It is also a good idea to wear warm nightclothes as your body temperature drops when you sleep. In very cold weather close the window at night as breathing in cold air can increase your risk of lung infections. If you feel too warm a fan can help cool the room a little and help your breathing feel more comfortable.
With rising fuel costs, turning the heating on may be a concern. The below link from Asthma and Lung UK has guidance on help with heating costs.Help with heating costs | Asthma + Lung UK (blf.org.uk)
Wearing layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one layer by trapping air between the layers. Think about whether thermal layers may be helpful and keep blankets to hand should you feel cold indoors.
Try to drink hot drinks and eat hot meals throughout the day.
If you go outdoors, ensure you are wearing enough layers to keep warm. Check the weather forecast to ensure you aren’t heading out in the coldest part of the day and that you don’t get caught in a downpour unexpectedly. Breathing in cold air can make you feel more breathless. If able to, try to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth as this will warm the air before it reaches your airways. Otherwise wearing a scarf loosely in front of your mouth to warm the air before you breathe it in can help. If you go outdoors make sure you take your rescue medication with you in case you need it whilst out and about.
Accessing financial support if you use home oxygen equipment
With the rising cost of living, please remember, you can be reimbursed for the electricity used by your oxygen concentrator.How to access financial support whilst utilising oxygen
You are also entitled to join the priority services register with your energy supplier which includes:
- Priority support in an emergency
- Being informed of planned power cuts
Keeping Well and Active
Keeping active not only keeps you warm by generating body heat but also helps you maintain your strength and muscle mass.Find out more about local activities and support to keep active during the colder months
If it is too cold to exercise outdoors try to do exercise indoors. The following links from Asthma and Lung UK and the NHS have exercises you can do indoors and from a chair if your mobility is limited.Stay active and stay well | Asthma + Lung UK (blf.org.uk) What activities could I do? | Asthma + Lung UK (blf.org.uk) Sitting exercises – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Try to keep your energy up by eating well over winter. Aim to eat your five a day of fruit and vegetables. Keep well stocked with food in case cold weather stops you going out for shopping.
Being able to shop for food is an important part of staying well and independent as we age. Support for shopping and home delivery services is available from Age UK.
In winter many people will feel more low in mood. Visit our webpage for advice on supporting your mental health during the winter months.
Information to manage your condition during the winter months
You are more prone to becoming unwell with respiratory infections in winter that will cause your symptoms to worsen. Get your flu jab and covid jab (if eligible) this year in order to give yourself the best protection. Some people with a long term condition such as asthma and COPD should be eligible for the flu jab via your GP or local pharmacy.Find out more about winter vaccinations
The pneumonia vaccine is a one off vaccine offered to those over 65 or those with long term respiratory conditions such as COPD, bronchiectasis and pulmonary fibrosis. If you are unsure if you have had this check with your GP who should have this on your medical records.
Try and avoid other people who are suffering with coughs and colds. It can be hard when it means not seeing your family and friends but it is important to look after yourself. If someone in your household has a cough or cold ways to prevent catching it ensure them covering their nose or mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing and washing your hands for 20 seconds or more.
Ensure you know regular medication you should be using and how to use it effectively as this will help prevent flare ups. If you are unsure if you are using your inhaler correctly have a chat to your local pharmacist you can check your technique is correct. You can also see videos on how to use different inhalers by clicking the button below.Medications for COPD | Asthma + Lung UK (blf.org.uk)
Ensure you have a 2-week supply of your regular medications available at home. Check the expiry dates on medication at home to ensure they are in date. If able to register for online GP services and download the NHS App to order repeat prescriptions so you can access this online if you need to.
If you become unwell or get a flare up of your respiratory condition signs you may notice include:
- Feeling more out of breath than usual.
- Coughing more than usual.
- Coughing up more mucus than normal.
- Coughing up mucus which is a different colour or consistency to usual.
- Having a fever.
Many flare ups can be managed at home with the appropriate treatment.
If you have a self-management plan or action plan from your GP, pharmacist or respiratory team you can follow this when you get a flare up of your symptoms.
Some people may have medications they take at home if they get a flare up called a rescue pack. If you do have this and start your rescue pack you should call your GP or community COPD team to let them know you have been unwell and needed to start the medication. You should let them know within 2 days of starting so they can advise you on your treatment.
If you don’t have an action plan you can ask your healthcare professional for one and to give you advice on what to do if you become more unwell.
For those without an action plan, if you have a flare up and you become unwell call your GP. If you can’t speak to your GP that day call 111 for advice. If you become severely unwell with symptoms that are much worse than your normal symptoms you can call 999.
Making changes to your lifestyle to prevent your condition from getting worse.
Smoking reduces the ability of your lungs to deal with flare ups in your respiratory condition. For information on stopping smoking contact our local lifestyle services.Lifestyle services