Protecting lungs

Keeping your lungs healthy in different climates

01 November 2020

Differing climates can impact lung health, particularly for people with a lung condition such as asthma, bronchiectasis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

For expats and their families who have relocated to a country where the climate is different to what they are accustomed to in their home country, there may be an impact on their lung health. However, whether the move is to a colder or hotter climate there are practical steps which can be taken to take care of their lungs.

In cold weather it is harder for the lungs to warm and humidify air as it enters your body, this can cause the airways to narrow and the lining of the airway to dry, making it harder to breathe. For those already suffering from a lung condition, colder temperatures can exacerbate the issue.

How to help protect your lungs in colder temperatures?

  • Allow your body time to adjust to the colder temperatures.
  • When outside loosely cover your mouth and nose with a warm scarf.
  • To help warm the air you breathe in, breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.
  •  Avoid going outside if the air quality index shows the air is poor quality.
  • Talk to your doctor about getting the flu vaccine.
  • Take any prescribed medication and if you use an inhaler, make sure you always carry it with you.
  • Dress in layers as this will trap warm air between the layers.
  • If the temperature is very cold, opt for thermal underwear.
  • Wear a warm hat to stop the heat escaping through your head.
  • Avoid outdoor exercise in very cold temperatures, opt instead for some indoor activity.
  • Keep your home warmed to a nice ambient temperature.
For many expats living in a warmer climate is a big positive of an overseas move. Warmer weather means more time outdoors and possibly increased levels of physical activity. However, warm weather too can have a detrimental impact on lung health, particularly for those with a lung condition.

How to help protect your lungs in warmer temperatures?

  • Just like with moving to a colder climate, when moving to a warmer climate allow your body time to adjust to the heat.
  • Avoid the sun when it is at its highest, and try to remain in the shade. On very hot days stay indoors.
  • Help cool your home and remove humidity by using an air conditioner.
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
  • If the temperature is very high, exercise indoors.
  • Ovoid going outside if the air quality index shows the air is poor quality.
If you are a smoker, the greatest step you can take to improve your lung health is to quit. Today.
If you have concerns about your lung health, or you are experiencing shortness of breath or a cough, please speak with your doctor.