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Warmer weather can spell trouble for over 6,400 Bedfordshire residents with lung conditions

17 July 2015

Most of us love the summer when we can enjoy warmer weather and sunnier days, but, if you’re one of 900,000 people in the UK with a lung condition it’s not such a pleasant time.

Heat, humidity and sudden changes in weather can make it harder to breathe and may trigger symptoms, such as shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing for people with conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or emphysema: collectively these lung conditions are known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

If you or one of your loved ones is affected by COPD it’s important to know how to manage symptoms in the warmer months by following some basic precautions.

Dr Dayo Kuku, who is the Respiratory clinical expert for NHS Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (BCCG) and a local GP said: “During the heat of summer, the body has to use extra energy to try and cool itself down in order to maintain a normal body temperature. This extra energy causes the body to demand more oxygen.

“COPD shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying all that summer has to offer. If you have COPD, you’re already using much of your energy just to breathe, not to mention everything else that you do during the day. So, it’s not uncommon to experience increase shortness of breath when you’re exposed to extreme temperatures, as your body is forced to use more energy while it struggles to maintain your body temperature.

“Many plants and allergens can make COPD worse. So, be aware of what affects you and talk to your doctor about allergy medications or inhalers to support your breathing in the summer heat.”

John Hubbold from Bedfordshire has a lung condition and is secretary of the British Lung Foundation’s local group, Breathe Easy Bedford. He said: “Our group members have suffered in this hot weather, but, as a self-help group we know the ways to minimise the unpleasantness for people with lung problems. Our members get helpful information at meetings from talks by speakers about living with lung conditions.
“The main reason for the group’s existence is that people with lung diseases tend not to go out due to breathing difficulties and we give them a friendly and safe place to meet fellow sufferers, form friendships and widen their social life.”
The Bedford Group meets on the first Wednesday of the month, 2-4 pm at Priory Methodist Church Hall, Newnham Avenue, Bedford, MK41 9QJ.

These basic precautions can help people to manage a lung condition:

1. Take your medication. It's important to take your medication as prescribed, even if you start to feel better. Continuous medication can help prevent flare-ups. If you have questions or concerns, talk to your healthcare team.
2. Get support from family and friends. If you live alone, make arrangements with family or friends to check on you regularly during extreme temperatures.
3. Check the weather forecast. Regularly check the met office and Heat-Health watch – www.metoffice.gov.uk , which operates in England from 1 June to 15 September each year. Then plan your activities during times when the weather is not as hot.
4. Protect yourself. Aim to keep your body cool - make sure you do not burn when in the sun – always use a sun screen that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
5. Stay hydrated. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day and eat more cold food, particularly salads and fruit which contain water.
6. Plan your day. Plan your day in a way that allows you to stay out of the heat. If possible, avoid going out in the hottest part of the day (between 11am and 3pm).
7. Stay cool. Stay in the coolest rooms in your home. Keep windows closed while the room is cooler than outside and open them when the temperature inside rises. Close curtains to keep the sun out. Open windows at night (if you are worried about security, only open windows on the first floor and above, or fit security locks.
8. Have regular showers or baths. Splash yourself several times a day with cold water, particularly your face and the back of your neck.
9. Keep active. This is crucial to maintaining a healthy, positive lifestyle and may help reduce shortness of breath. So if the summer months require you to stay indoors on days that are too hot or humid, try to find alternative ways to stay active.

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