We are in the very heart of the summer season. Here in Central Pennsylvania this means longer periods of sunshine, hotter temperatures, and often significant increases in humidity.
Patients with COPD often have trouble during the summer months, most of the time due to humidity. Simply put humidity is the percent of water that our air may contain, e.g. 50% humidity means the air we are breathing contains 50% of the amount of moisture it is able to contain. The higher the humidity the more uncomfortable most of us feel. This discomfort is even more apparent to patients with COPD, because the increased humidity actually makes the air we are breathing thicker and denser. If you have narrowed airways because of COPD, it is even harder to get air in and out than usual.
Complaints about increased breathing difficulty during the summer are common. Many patients try to relieve the discomfort they have on humid days by using more of their rescue medications. This is the wrong approach since the frequent and sometimes excessive use of medications is not the answer to the humidity problem. The best way to deal with humidity is to cool the air. When the air is cool it holds less moisture, therefore, the humidity is lower.
Air conditioning is the best answer to dealing with the summer humidity. The ability to have some home air conditioning even if only for one room can be extremely helpful. Enjoy the rest of the summer and stay cool!