COPD and Cold Weather Tips

Senior Couple On Autumn Camping Trip

Extreme cold, stronger winds, and drier air quality can make breathing more difficult, especially if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). For individuals with COPD, symptoms can be made worse by cold weather, as breathing in cold air can irritate the lungs and trigger flare-ups. Flare-ups can cause worsening symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, excess phlegm production, and in some cases, can lead to hospitalization. Understanding COPD and how to manage it in the cold weather can help you stay safe and healthy through the winter months.

Why does cold weather exacerbate COPD symptoms?

As temperatures start dropping, your body works harder to keep warm, putting strain on your heart and lungs. Low temperatures can cause the narrowing of blood vessels, which then restricts blood flow throughout the body, causing a loss of oxygen to the heart. To offset this, our lungs start working hard to help provide oxygen in the bloodstream so that your body has what it needs. This extra work on your lungs can aggravate common COPD symptoms such as shortness of breath and chronic coughing and wheezing.


Colder temperatures also generally mean drier air. Dry air conditions often irritate lungs due to the lack of moisture in the body's airways. This irritation can cause inflammation, which leads to more chronic coughing.

Managing COPD in cold weather

While there is no cure for COPD, there are treatments available that can help to manage the symptoms and prevent flare-ups. It is important for individuals with COPD to stay warm in chilly weather, as this can help to prevent irritating symptoms. Here are some tips on how to stay warm and safe during the winter months: 


  • Wear layers of clothing to trap heat in. This includes a hat or scarf to cover your head and face, as well as gloves or mittens.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor activities, such as shoveling snow or jogging. These types of activities can put added stress on your lungs, as well as increase your exposure to dry air.
  • Stay indoors as much as possible and use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
  • Avoid going outside on days with extreme wind chills.
  • Don’t use wood fireplaces inside. The wood may cause smoke buildup, which can worsen COPD symptoms.
  • Talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot. The flu can cause serious respiratory problems for people with COPD.

Staying safe with COPD during colder months

Taking the extra effort to protect your lungs in winter can prevent a flare-up or worsening of symptoms. With these tips, you can minimize your risk and keep your lungs healthy when it's cold outside.


If you have COPD and live in a climate that's on the colder side, exercise caution when going outside, particularly during cold weather. If you have COPD and live in an area prone to cold, dry winters, use caution when going outside to keep your lungs healthy.

Content contained on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Consult your health care provider before beginning any new fitness or dietary plan. References provided are for informational purposes only and do not constitute endorsement of any websites or other sources. Should you have any health-related questions, you should contact your health care provider.





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