Winter Weather and Travel
Winter weather and travel often don’t go well together. Foranyone with COPD, frigid air, snow, and ice pose significant challenges.
Since many people traditionally travel during the holidays, both locally and for long distances, we’ll provide a few tips to make your winter weather journey safer and more pleasant.
Cold Weather Safety Precautions
Cold air makes breathing more difficult. If you have COPD,you should pay special attention to regulating your temperature, especiallywhen you’re outside. Try dressing in layers so that if you become too warm ortoo cold you can remove or add a layer as necessary. Keep an eye on weatherpredictions of cold temperatures and wind chill levels.
Exacerbations (COPD attacks) and hospitalizations increaseduring winter months. The following suggestions can help prevent exacerbationsand make breathing easier.
Winter months bring drier air both indoors and outside. Thatis why you should try to keep indoor relative humidity levels at 40% or above.When outside, you can try covering your nose and mouth with a thick scarf or aCT mask. CT masks are designed to help persons with COPD or asthma to breathewarm, moist air while outside. (Caution: A CT maskwill not protect you from COVID-19.)
For important information aboutface coverings in public situations because of COVID-19, please see the joint Statementon Importance of Patients with Chronic Lung Disease Wearing Facial Coverings.
During winter, it is especially important to pay attentionto air quality. Try to avoid spending time outdoors when air quality is ratedpoor. Even “moderate” air quality can make breathing difficult for persons withCOPD or asthma.
Indoor air quality often becomes worse during winter.Allergens and pollutants can increase inside because clothes dryers and otherappliances are run more frequently. Putting up and taking down holidaydecorations can increase levels of dust and mold. Changing air filters onfurnaces and cleaning more often can help.
If you use supplemental oxygen, make sure to insulate youroxygen tank and tubing against cold weather. If the tank and tubing get too cold,your breathing can become much more difficult.
Finally, consider taking precautions to prepare for winterstorms or for days when you cannot get out.
· Stockpile an extra supply of any medicationsthat you take.
· Arrange for battery or other alternative powersupply to operate supplemental oxygen equipment or stationary nebulizers.
· If you use a propane or gas heater in case of apower outage, make sure that it operates well and is well ventilated. Install abattery-powered carbon monoxide detector as a precaution.
· Have a family and friends communication plan inplace.
Winter Travel Tips
Since winter weather can pose unexpected hazards, it is bestto plan carefully before setting out. Even driving short distances to thegrocery store or pharmacy can be difficult. Longer distances by car or air canadd their own challenges.
Obviously, we should all avoid traveling during really badweather. But if you must go out to get food or medicine, try to have someoneelse do the driving. Even then, be sure to have your emergency inhaler orportable nebulizer and medication with you.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, most travel isrestricted or subject to extreme caution. But if you must travel, try to avoid largegatherings to minimize risk of catching the flu and other common illnesses.(You might try going to the grocery store or pharmacy at odd hours.)
If you are flying or driving long distances, be sure to havea good supply of all your medications with you. During the winter, long flightdelays or cancelations are more frequent. Long highway trips can encountermassive traffic jams resulting in delays of several hours.
In addition to sufficient medications and equipment, includean extra written prescription for all medications in case your supply gets lostor runs out. Also include your insurance card and contact information for yourhealth care provider.
Winter weather need not prevent you from getting outside toget some exercise or to run errands. Just be sure that you’re prepared for whatthe colder weather can throw at you.
Remember, when the weather becomes too nasty or you don’tfeel like putting up with the hassle, it’s okay to say no, stay inside, orpostpone your travel.
American College of ChestPhysicians, American Lung Association, American Thoracic Society, and COPDFoundation, Statementon Importance of Patients with Chronic Lung Disease Wearing Facial Coverings.
American Lung Association, Emergenciesand Travel in Winter Weather.
American Lung Association, What Goes in an Asthmaor COPD Travel Pack?
Centers for Disease Control andPrevention (CDC) guide for Preparingfor a Winter Storm.
FederalEmergency Management Agency (FEMA) guide for how to prepare for a winter storm(PDF).
1st Class Medical, guidefor ManagingYour COPD in the Winter.
LPT Medical, TheComplete Guide to Managing Your COPD in Winter.