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Advice for patients with respiratory problems in hot weather

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Are you worried about your respiratory patients in hot weather? British Lung Foundation’s Vicky Barber provides guidance on what nurses and people living with a lung condition need to consider.

As summer approaches and the temperature rises I am often asked on the BLF Helpline what people living with a lung condition should bear in mind. So I have put together a quick guide to help your patients stay well over the coming months.

During a hot spell levels of ozone can cause breathing problems, irritate the nose and throat, cause coughing and wheezing, and trigger symptoms associated of asthma or COPD.

The following are my top tips to help your patients cope with the hot weather.

Avoid the heat

Stay out of the sun and do not go outside between 11am and 3pm. If you have to go out try planning to achieve your tasks in the cooler parts of the day.

Keep out of the sun

If you do need to go out during the day, avoid being in the sun for long stretches, and wear loose, cool clothing and a hat.

Pack a bag of essentials

Take a bag of essentials with you such as any medication that you may need, plenty of water and a portable fan.

Reduce amounts of strenuous activity

Reduce the amount of strenuous activity you do in the heat (both indoors and outdoors). Limit activities like housework and gardening to the early morning or evening when it’ is cooler. Make sure you exercise indoors in a cool, well-ventilated room or gym.

Drink cold water

Drink cold water regularly even if you do not feel thirsty and avoid alcohol as it can cause dehydration.

Keep your house cool

Try to keep your house cool. Closing blinds or curtains can help. Keep the windows closed while the room is cooler than it is outside. If it is safe to do so, open windows at night when the air is cooler.

Take baths or showers

Have regular baths or showers in cool water, or even just splash your face to keep cool.

Use a handheld fan

Try using a handheld fan and let the cool air blow towards the middle part of your face, holding it about six inches from your face. You may also find a floor-standing fan or desktop fan helps. Do not have the fan blowing directly into your face, as this may cause you to inhale dust.

Check pollution and pollen

Avoid areas of high pollution, such as near busy roads. You can check pollution levels online, and if you have hay fever or other allergies you should also check the pollen count. 

Vicky Barber is a specialist respiratory nurse on the British Lung Foundation helpline

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