Winter Health: Managing COPD

older-man-coughingChronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is one of the most common reasons for people being admitted to hospital during the winter.

It’s a condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms include being out of breath when exercising or moving around, a persistent cough with phlegm that never goes away, wheezing and frequent chest infections.

These symptoms are often worse in the wintertime when the weather becomes colder. That’s why, before the busy winter period, doctors at Doncaster Royal Infirmary are urging everyone who has COPD to take extra special care to prevent their symptoms becoming particularly bad and ending up in hospital.

Mrs Elizabeth Billany, 93, from Doncaster, was diagnosed with the condition about five years ago and with the support of her local GP Practice nurses she is managing her condition at home.

Betty said: “I was getting out of breath and went to see my doctor. I was given a tube to blow into to test my lungs. I remember it was hard to do because I don’t have much strength, but I managed it.

“The nurse told me all the things I should and shouldn’t do to keep it under control, like not going outside when it is very cold. Although I did go out when it was windy recently and regretted it because I wasn’t well afterwards so I’ll know better next time. I take my medication every day and walk as often as I can. My family and friends help too and because they know I have COPD and stay away if they have a cold which I’m pleased about.”

Dr Moe Kyi, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals, said: “Doncaster has a high number of people with COPD and we tend to see more and more people coming into hospital with breathing problems caused by chest infections. Chest infections cause the COPD to flare up. With severe flare-ups, people often don’t get back their usual level of fitness even after treatment and their overall health and wellbeing gets worse. It is very important that patients know more how to manage their own condition so that they are able to cope better with their symptoms and avoid flare-ups.

“I am very pleased that Betty is taking good care of herself. This is something I would encourage everyone to do to avoid being admitted to hospital.”

There are some simple steps to help reduce the severity of your COPD symptoms and chances of a flare-up:

  • Keep active
  • Take your medication as prescribed, even if you feel better
  • Keep in touch with your healthcare team and discuss any concerns with them
  • Keep well by having your yearly flu jab and an anti-pneumonia vaccination
  • Check the weather forecast
  • Avoid dusty places, fumes, smoke, and strong smelling products
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • If you have been given standby medications, use them when appropriate


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