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Cold weather warning for people with breathing difficulties

User AvatarPosted by Amanda Crawford at 27/01/2015 16:00:18
Cold and wintry weather can be dangerous for people who already have breathing difficulties.

So GPs are advising people with problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to take action to stay well while it’s cold outside.

GP Dr Navin Kumta, who chairs NHS Ashford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which plans and pays for the area’s healthcare, said:  “Most people can avoid serious flare-ups by staying indoors on the worst days, keeping their rooms warm (18-21C), making sure they use their inhalers when they need to, and speaking to their GP about keeping antibiotics at home.

“Start the course if you feel more breathless, are coughing more or notice your phlegm has increased or changed colour.

“If you have a serious attack and are struggling to breathe, feeling confused or dizzy or your lips are turning blue, contact your GP urgently. In the evenings or at weekends call NHS111. They will put you in touch with the out-of-hours doctors if needed.”

Some people risk getting worse because they don’t want to bother their doctor. But GPs will always do their best to see patients who need to be seen urgently. Or they will phone them back.

It is important to remember that you don’t have to be seen by just ‘your’ doctor. All GPs in a practice will be able to see your medical notes if needed.

For advice on living with COPD or to find your GP practice’s opening hours and contact details, use the NHS app Health Help Now (www.healthhelpnow-nhs.net), which is also available to download on Android and iPhones.

COPD is the umbrella term for lung diseases like chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. Typical symptoms include frequent chest infections, breathlessness and a persistent cough which has lasted three weeks or more.

COPD is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the UK. It usually affects people over 35, although most people are not diagnosed until they are in their 50s.

The main cause of COPD is smoking. There is no known cure although there are ways of making the condition more manageable.

“If you are a smoker, stopping is the single most effective way to reduce your risk of getting the condition. It is important COPD is diagnosed as early as possible so treatment can begin to try to slow down the deterioration of the lungs. You should see your GP if you have any of the symptoms,” Dr Kumta added. 

Many people who develop symptoms of COPD do not get medical help because they often dismiss symptoms as a ‘smoker’s cough.’ COPD affects more men than women, although rates in women are increasing.

Ten top winter tips for those with COPD:
• Check the weather before going out. When it’s cold, older people should stay indoors as much as possible to keep warm.
• Ensure you carry your medication at all times as cold air can make it harder to breathe.
• Use your rescue inhaler (blue) before going for a walk or doing any type of exercise. This opens up the lungs making it easier to breathe.
• Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth to warm the air.
• Protect lungs by wearing a hood or scarf that covers your nose and mouth. Keep warm by wearing layers of clothing and warm nightclothes during very cold weather.
• Recommended temperature in the living room is 21°C (70°F) and 18°C (64°F) in the bedroom.
• Keep your home well ventilated - air quality is more important in winter as most of us spend more time indoors. Avoid sitting in a room with an open fire or a wood-burning stove. The smoke can irritate lungs.
• Try to stay as active as possible to generate heat. Get up, move around and try to do some exercise.
• Eat a little but often, including your “five-a-day” fruit and vegetables. A large meal can make you more breathless. Drink plenty of liquids.
• It is wise for patients with COPD or severe asthma to have the flu jab. Speak to your GP about stand-by antibiotics and steroids at home. Keep a spare up-to-date inhaler.

Homeowners can check whether they are eligible for free home energy improvements by visiting  www.kent.gov.uk/warmhomes or if you are over 65 with a diagnosed medical condition, you may be eligible for support from the Winter Warmth programme. Please contact the Home Improvement Agency on 08000 283 172.
Find out more about keeping warm in winter http://www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/keeping-warm-and-well-in-winter

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