Many people look forward to the chilly temperatures and brisk breezes that signal the season change in Yavapai County. However, for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), the season change may mean increased wheezing, coughing and tightness in the chest.

“COPD is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe,” said Jennifer Smith, Respiratory Therapist, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC). “While cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD, other factors also contribute to it. Long-term exposure to air pollution, chemical fumes or dust can also contribute to COPD.”

If you have COPD, how can you prevent cold air from worsening your condition? Here are some weather-wise tips:

No Smoking, Please! – This is recommended for people with COPD in any season. Cigarette smoking causes COPD to progress at a much faster pace, but combining smoking with cold air will worsen the COPD patient’s symptoms.

Bundle Up – Cold air is drying and irritating to the airways. Wear protective gear – a loose scarf over your nose and mouth – when the temperature dips and breathe through your nose. This will help warm the air before it enters the lungs, which can keep COPD symptoms from flaring up.

Walk this Way – If you have COPD, it’s best to limit outdoor exposure on chilly days. If you do venture out on windy days, try walking with the wind to avoid direct exposure.

Where There’s Fire, There’s Smoke – A wood-burning stove or fireplace can have both short and long-term health consequences. The harmful particles can irritate the airways and exacerbate symptoms for people with COPD.

Get Your Exercise – Regular exercise is important if you have COPD as it increases your lung capacity. If you enjoy exercising outside, move indoors when the outside temperature drops. Exercising at home or in a facility, like one of YRMC’s two Pendleton Center locations, is a safe alternative to exercising outdoors.

Use Your Rescue Inhaler, As Recommended – Some physicians recommend their COPD patients take a preventative dose of their rescue inhalers before going outdoors in cold weather. A rescue inhaler contains medicine that can open up and relax the airways, making it easier for people with COPD to breathe. If you have COPD, ask your doctor how to use a rescue inhaler during exposure to brisk temperatures.

One of the best ways to learn about managing COPD, asthma, bronchiectasis and other chronic lung conditions is to talk with people facing the same illness. Breathe Easier – YRMC’s free respiratory wellness class – meets regularly to discuss a variety of healthy-breathing topics at YRMC East and YRMC West.