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Autumn brings breathing challenges for those with COPD

Hospital news | Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Contact: John Broom

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.

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

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.

Dr. 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, so the anxiety level is low.
  • 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, which helps when there are flare-ups. 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, as well as potentially harmful germs. 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. The smoke can be an irritant, especially to someone whose lungs are sensitive to any foreign substance. Any contact with smoke – even for a short period of time – can lead to a flare-up of COPD or other breathing disorders.
  • Educate yourself. For more information about COPD visit and search for “COPD.”

ACMC’s pulmonologists see patients at ACMC’s main campus, at Conneaut Family Health Center, and Geneva Family Health Center. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Srivastava, call 440-997-6969.

ACMC offers community support groups for those with breathing disorders. The Better Breathers Group meets the first Wednesday of every other month. The next meeting will be at 2 p.m., Wednesday, December 4. Call 440-997-6425 to reserve a seat or to get more information.

ACMC also offers a pulmonary rehabilitation program that uses a monitored outpatient exercise program to manage chronic lung disease. Anyone with lung disease that causes shortness of breath is a candidate for pulmonary rehabilitation. Patients who complete the program report reduced fatigue, better sleep, less shortness of breath, and increased energy. To learn more, visit