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This time of year can be especially difficult for anyone managing chronic lung disease (COPD), particularly if you live in a colder climate. Cold, dry air irritates sensitive airways resulting in bronchospasms and shrinking airways, making it difficult to breathe.

Irritants cause inflammation of the membranes and excessive mucus production. While these symptoms can be treated with anti-inflammatory medications and bronchodilators, learning to avoid the irritants that trigger your symptoms is essential in managing COPD. The range of irritants is broad and while many are common, such as cold, dry air, others are specific to the individual. They can include car exhaust, animal dander, dust mites, perfumes, mold, cleaning products and sulfites in food, wine and beer just to name a few.

Breathing in cold, dry air during the winter months may be impossible to avoid but it can be tempered by breathing through a scarf or a cold weather mask when outdoors.

Besides avoiding irritants, two other preventive measures will help reduce acute flare-ups; exercise and more effective breathing.

Exercise cannot reverse the damage to your lungs but it can improve your ability to function by strengthening muscles and increasing the efficiency of both heart and lungs.

Breathing more effectively can be learned. I like to combine diaphragmatic breathing on the inhalation and pursed lip breathing on the exhalation.

Diaphragmatic or belly breathing will strengthen the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles. Let the belly expand like a balloon as you inhale.

Purse your lips as you exhale and breathe out softly, taking 2 to 3 times longer breathing out than breathing in. Slowing the outbreath allows for a better exchange of air in the lungs and will help increase your endurance.

For a demonstration of pursed lip and diaphragmatic breathing click this link.

You can learn more about exercising with COPD with my COPD Workout DVD (link) which recently won the Aurora Gold Award!

Keep reaching out for a better day with a deep breath,

Mary Ann


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