Winter dangers, such as broken bones from falls on ice, or breathing problems caused by cold air, can be worrisome, especially for older adults. Keri Sparks, Registered Respiratory Therapist, Respiratory Manager, from Acuity Specialty Hospital of Ohio Valley offers some tips to help you breathe easier during the frigid conditions.

  1. If you use an inhaled bronchodilator, use it one half hour before venturing outdoors.
  2. Exercise indoors. Work out at a gym, inside your home, or walk laps inside a mall.
  3. Use a home humidifier to moisturize indoor air.
  4. Wear clothing over the nose and mouth to trap warm air and prevent inhaling cold air.  Breathing through your nose is more effective in warming the air before it reaches your airways.
  5. During extreme hot or cold temperatures, be even more committed to using all medications and oxygen as ordered by your physician.
  6. As always, don’t smoke!  Smoking combined with exposure to cold air increases symptoms of breathlessness exponentially.

Stay indoors when it’s very cold outside, especially if it’s also very windy; and keep indoor temperatures at about 65 degrees or above. If you have to go outside, don’t stay out in the cold or the wind for very long.

  1. Wear two or three thinner layers of loose-fitting clothing. Multiple thin layers are warmer than a single layer of thick clothing. Always wear a hat, and gloves or mittens (mittens are warmer), a coat and boots, and a scarf to cover your mouth and nose and protect your lungs from very cold air.
  2. Stay dry; wet clothing chills your body quickly.
  3. Go indoors if you start shivering- it’s a warning sign that you’re losing body heat.
  4. Know the warning signs of hypothermia: lots of shivering; cold skin that is pale or ashy; feeling very tired, confusion and sleepiness; feeling weak; problems walking; slowed breathing or heart rate. Call 911 if you think you or someone else has hypothermia.

Stay warm, and always have a plan if you lose power.