An exciting time of year, the holidays traditionally bring people together and spread cheer. But for someone living with bronchiectasis, your joy of the season may be mixed with unease. Between the cold temperatures, dry air conditions, and time spent with family and friends, there’s a greater risk of spreading germs that may trigger an exacerbation of bronchiectasis-related symptoms.
According to the British Lung Institute1, for people living with a chronic lung condition, colder climates and dry air may worsen your symptoms and make you more prone to lung infections. Dry air typically causes congestion and excess mucus in the lungs. For someone with an impaired breathing condition, such as bronchiectasis, this is a concern. Dryness also can irritate the airways, which increases coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath2, all signs of bronchiectasis.
If you’re traveling for the holidays or spending time outdoors this season, the American Lung Association recommends that you take the following measures to protect your lungs against potential infection:
Keep Your Nose and Mouth Covered: Covering your nose and mouth with a scarf can help protect against germs. This will also warm the air before entering your lungs.
Get Your Annual Flu Shot: Getting your flu vaccine before winter will help protect you from catching an illness that can lead to an infection in the lungs.
Watch the Forecast: Keep a close eye on the daily forecast for information on air quality. As air pollution tends to be higher in the winter, you’ll want to stay indoors if the Air Quality Index (AQI) increases to levels that are considered unhealthy for individuals living with bronchiectasis or other chronic lung conditions (i.e. an AQI of 101-150).3
Aside from the bitter outdoors, indoor air conditions can also be harmful for someone living with bronchiectasis. Whether you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of bronchiectasis, here are some ways to prevent inflammation and ensure that everyone has a wonderful holiday season this year:
Wash Your Hands: A general rule of thumb but always effective, washing your hands reduces the chances of spreading germs. As the holidays are often met with warm embraces from friends and family, be sure to keep your hands clean and ask others to do the same.
Avoid People with Colds: Patients living with bronchiectasis or other chronic lung conditions are more susceptible to colds and infections. If you’re experiencing early signs of a cough or sore throat, keep your distance from others, especially if you have a family member living with bronchiectasis.
Skip the Scented Household Products: Lighting holiday-themed candles may smell pleasant and set a cozy mood, but they can also irritate a person’s lungs. If someone with a chronic lung condition is visiting, avoid using scented air fresheners or strong candles that create difficult breathing conditions.
Keep Your Indoor Air Clean: In a previous blog post, we discussed tips for creating a safer breathing environment inside your home. In addition to using those tips, remember to avoid using a burning stove or chimney, as this can spread pollutants and dust particles around the room, making it harder for someone with bronchiectasis to breath.
Stay on Track with HFCWO Therapy: Holiday travel, shopping, baking, and spending time with family is all part of the seasonal charm, but it can be time consuming. No matter how busy your plans are this season, always put your bronchiectasis management first.
To help you stay on schedule with your high frequency chest wall oscillation (HFCWO) therapy, ask your doctor about SmartVest Connect! Using digital, easy-to-read goal reports, you can track each session, compare your airway clearance therapy progress, and provide your doctor with updates in real time. Learn more about how the SmartVest Airway Clearance System uses SmartVest Connect technology to help patients with managing bronchiectasis by downloading this form to bring to your next doctor’s appointment.
British Lung Institute (n.d.) Keeping well in the cold: what you can do. Retrieved from https://www.blf.org.uk/support-for-you/cold-weather
American Lung Association (n.d.) Cold weather and your lungs. Retrieved from https://www.lung.org/about-us/media/top-stories/cold-weather-your-lungs.html
AirNow (n.d.) Air quality index (AQI) basics. Retrieved from http://airnow.gov