Research shows that COPD sufferers are more likely to be hospitalised during the Christmas holiday period than at any other time during the winter. This is in part due to developing respiratory infections on the weeks leading up to Christmas as the weather gets colder but also these are more easily spread at holiday social events, which are more frequent on the lead up to Christmas. With more germs around, colder weather acting as a trigger, increased social occasions and the extra stress of shopping and travelling leading up to Christmas, all increases the risk of infections, frequency of flare-ups and potential hospitalisation. Also remember that over Christmas you may not have as much access to medical assistance so preparation and check-ups before GP surgeries close and other services become minimised is very important.
It is very important to take care of yourself as the weather turns colder to ensure you stay healthy throughout the winter season.
To protect your breathing this holiday season:
- Wash your hands properly and often
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- Make sure your prescriptions are up-to-date so that you are prepared to treat a flare-up.
- Keep your medicine on hand.
- Watch your symptoms and get medical help if you need it.
- If you’re travelling, take extra supplies of your medicine.
- Ensure you have enough oxygen supply and an emergency back-up just in case your oxygen requirements increase suddenly or there is a power outage
To prevent flare-ups, avoid these indoor triggers:
- Decorations: When you get your holiday decorations out of storage remember they are most likely covered in dust. If the area where you store them has dust and mildew, proactively use your inhaler if prescribed one, and wear a mask, scarf or bandana for protection from these particles. Then wipe down all your decorations with a cloth to remove any dust before you deck the halls.
- Trees: Freshly cut Christmas trees are beautiful but they can also contain pollen and mould spores, which can trigger breathing problems. If you bring home a live tree for the holiday season, rinse it with a hose and let it dry in your garage before bringing it into the house.
- Hosting: People tend to deep clean their homes before being inundated with guests over Christmas. However excessive use of cleaning products can trigger flare-ups but there are lots of home remedies that work just as well that don’t contain chemical triggers.
- Scents: Holiday scents can be a great addition to the festivities but things like candles, incense and air fresheners can also be a trigger. While they smell good, they may not be good for you or your guests with respiratory challenges.
- Be careful of your diet, the holiday season throws up a host of rich and sugary foods but ensure you maintain a well-balanced diet as poor eating and diet can trigger a flare-up or make you more susceptible to a respiratory infection.
- Be aware of wood smoke from stoves and fireplaces
Cold dry winter air can be a trigger for some people with asthma and COPD:
- Wear a scarf or face mask over your nose and mouth, to help warm the air before you breathe it in.
- Breathe through your nose, not your mouth – this also helps warm the air before it reaches your lungs.
- If you plan to exercise outdoors, first do warm-up exercises indoors.
- If need be, take a dose of your inhaler or oxygen before you go outside.
If you are prepared and take precautionary measures and monitor your symptoms then you should make it through the holiday season in good health.
Some COPD patients find it easier and safer to not be at home for the depths of winter to avoid ill health and chose to travel abroad to warmer climates, either with their partner or to visit friends and family. This way you can avoid the cold weather and its complications all together. Many find that being on holiday is more relaxing and the warmer weather helps to improve their health. Travelling abroad with oxygen is easy to arrange with a global company that can arrange and supply all your oxygen requirements from the second you step off the plane. Just check with your doctor that you are allowed to fly, look up helpful information on flying with COPD and contact a company, such as Oxygenworldwide who will ensure that your holiday runs smoothly. You do not want to be travelling abroad to ensure the cold doesn’t affect your health to then be faced with other problems abroad so just ensure you use a reputable company and make suitable preparations.
References: http://sct.poumon.ca and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov and http://propellerhealth.com