ASHTABULA — Late autumn is often viewed as a nostalgic a mix of colored leaves, apple cider and evenings by the campfire. However, for people with breathing difficulties (such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), the colder weather of fall and winter can mean a fearful time of heavy coughing, shortness of breath and a greatly reduced quality of life, according to a press release from Ashtabula County Medical Center.

“Every day can be a challenge,” said ACMC Pulmonologist Sanjay Srivastava. “One day you feel great and the next day you feel like you cannot do anything.”

When a person with COPD breathes in cold air, it can trigger a bronchospasm causing the smooth muscles in the airways to tighten and spasm. A person will experience increased mucus production, excessive coughing and shortness of breath.

Srivastava offered the following tips for dealing with COPD and other serious breathing disorders. These may prove especially important during the upcoming holiday season.

• Try to avoid stress. Prepare for things in advance and be ready for emergencies.

• Exercise and eat healthy foods. People who are more active and who have a healthy diet tend to be able to recover better from a flare up or complications from their breathing disorders. A good exercise program can help develop greater lung capacity. For exercising outdoors, especially in cold weather, wear a scarf over the mouth and try to breathe through the nose.

• Get enough sleep. Staying on a routine will help the body get enough sleep.

• Practice good hygiene. Washing hands frequently can help keep allergens away. For people with some breathing disorders, the flu or pneumonia is worse because of reduced efficiency of the lungs.

• Take a multi-vitamin and get flu/pneumonia shots. Being vaccinated and strengthening the immune system can help stave off dangerous illnesses.

• Avoid smoke – whether from tobacco or fires. Smoke can be an irritant. Any contact with smoke – even for a short period of time – can lead to a flare-up.

For more information about COPD visit www.acmchealth.org and search for “COPD.”

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