November 3, 2017

Living with a lung condition in the summer

As the warmer weather approaches, many of us look forward to going on holidays. With temperatures rising, wet weather approaching and humidity increasing, it is common for people living with a lung condition to experience a flare up in their symptoms and struggle with increased breathlessness. If you are living with or caring for someone with a lung condition, it can take some planning.

Symptoms people often experience include cough, shortness of breath, runny nose, irritable eyes and sore throat. If you are affected by the hot weather, there are things you can do to help keep yourself well, including:

Stay hydrated
Drinking enough water is essential, however it is important to discuss with your doctor the appropriate amount for your condition as some people may be on fluid restrictions. Avoid drinks that increase dehydration including alcohol, tea and coffee. Eat smaller, cooler meals including foods high in water content such as fruits and salads. Focus on foods that are easily digestible, low in fat and contain carbohydrates and protein.

Keep out of the sun
Remember to stay safe in the sun. Avoid going outside between 11am and 3pm and aim to do activities such as gardening, exercise and housework in the cooler parts of the day. Wear light-coloured and loose-fitting clothes, wide brim hats, sunscreen and sunglasses.

Avoid the heat
Tips to remain cool and avoid the heat, include:

  • Fill a large sock with rice or place a wet hand towel in a zip lock bag and freeze, you can then place it on or beside you to keep cool.
  • Keep a hand held fan (battery operated) handy.
  • Take a cool shower and if possible, put a fan in the bathroom to help move the humidity.
  • If you have access to a pool, go for a swim (if this is a safe option for your condition).
  • Keep your house cool by using fans, air-conditioning, sun blinds or curtains during the day.
  • Go to your local library or shopping centre to stay out of the midday heat.
  • Some women have shared that not wearing a bra at home decreases breathlessness and helps with staying cool.
  • Contact your electricity provider to ask if they offer assistance for running air-conditioners/heaters for your health condition.

Avoid the smoke and haze from fires
Where possible, people with poor lung health in areas affected by bush fires and smoke, should stay indoors when smoke is thick. Keep windows and doors closed and use air conditioning on the recycle mode.

Be prepared
Have a plan. Watch weather forecasts and know who to call if you need help. When you are going out for the day ensure you take your medicines, a hand fan and plenty of water. Talk with your health professional team about your action plan and how you can live well through the warm months.

Exercise safely
Whether you are exercising at home, through a pulmonary rehabilitation clinic or maintenance exercise class such as Lung Foundation Australia’s Lungs in Action program, it is important to talk to your prescribing exercise professional about how to exercise safely in the heat and to understand any danger signs.