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World COPD Day - 5 expert tips to stop your COPD from worsening this winter

If you have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), you MUST follow these doctor-recommended tips in winter.

Written by Sandhya Raghavan |Updated : November 15, 2017 10:25 AM IST

For Indians, winter is a welcome break from the sweltering tropical heat that ravages the country for the most part of the year. Every year we look forward to wearing our woollens and enjoying the fleeting yet pleasant winter months. But not everyone in the country looks forward to the winter months, thanks to the host of health problems it brings along with it. Some of the worst affected during this time are the ones suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders or COPD. Here are some of the signs of COPD exacerbation. The symptoms become worse and the flare-ups seem more frequent than usual in the winter seasons.

Dr Prasana Kumar Thomas, Pulmonologist, Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai attributes this sudden spike in COPD exacerbations in winter months to multiple factors. "Winter increases the incidence of viral infections and facilitates the movement of fungal moulds in the atmosphere. Air-borne infections are also at an all-time high during the cooler months. In such situations, instances of respiratory illnesses go up. So it's no surprise that people with a compromised respiratory system, like the COPD patients, would be more vulnerable to the health problems winter brings." In addition to this, the dry winter air also does its bit to worsen flare-ups in people with COPD conditions.

The worst affected, according to Dr Thomas, are the elderly. "Many senior citizens have underlying health problems such as hypertension and diabetes for which they are on medication. These problems make them more susceptible to COPD exacerbations than the other. Apart from the seniors, even young children tend to suffer flare ups of bronchitis and respiratory illnesses."

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Dr Thomas agrees that it is impossible to stay bundled indoors for the winters. "Staying put at home is not a solution at all. Patients need to take some precautionary methods to ensure that the winter doesn't exacerbate the COPD symptoms," he says as he underlines the four most important rules to prevent COPD in winter.

1.Don't forget your medicines

Under no circumstances should be lenient with your medication during winter, says Dr Thomas. With the winter already working against you, the last thing you need is a COPD exacerbation. Be prepared for the winter and be on track with your medication. Through the medication, you will be able to manage your COPD better, preventing any chances of your symptoms from worsening.

2.Maintain overall hygiene

As a COPD sufferer, it is your duty towards yourself to maintain proper hygiene at all times. Good, clean habits will prevent chances of a flare up through pathogens. Your immune system needs to be in ship shape to thwart any possible chances of infection. So wash your hands and reduce your interaction with the sick to prevent exacerbations.

3.Know your Alpha-1 Antitrypsin status

Alpha-1 antitrypsin is a protein and an enzyme inhibitor, which protects tissues from enzymes of inflammatory cells. When you are deficient in Alpha-1 antitrypsin, it shows that you are at increased risk for lung and liver diseases. "It is important for COPD sufferers to know about their Alpha-1 antitrypsin status at all times, especially during the winters," says Dr Thomas.

4.Stay in a clean, dust free surrounding

Dust-proofing your house in winters is particularly important. Since there is less humidity in the air to weigh them down, dust particles move around more freely and enter your airways to cause inflammation. Using nets to cover windows and cleaning footwear before entering the house will help. "Most Indian homes are comparatively better off than carpeted western homes that trap a large amount of dust and debris," says Dr Thomas. However, he does recommend routine vacuuming and sweeping of floors to ensure that there is no dust that can irritate your airways. In case you experience shortness of breath, here are some techniques to prevent breathlessness in COPD.

Image source: Shutterstock

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