Cranking Up Your Thermostat May Make Your COPD Worse - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 02, 2016

Cranking Up Your Thermostat May Make Your COPD Worse

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Mary Wascavage
(610) 284-8619

When there was just a 10-degree increase
in air temperature inside, COPD patients may
experience a severe increase in symptoms. 

As the temperatures outside drop this winter, it’s normal to bump up your thermostat a few degrees to keep your house nice and toasty. However, making your indoor environment too warm could have a negative impact on you if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). New research shows that people with COPD experienced worsening symptoms when indoor temperatures rose by 10 degrees, especially if their homes had higher levels of indoor air pollutants.

Heat and Air Pollution: A Bad Combination for COPD Sufferers

The research study conducted by Johns Hopkins University showed that it was a combination of increased temperature and indoor air pollution that made COPD sufferers feel worse. They measured two different kinds of air pollution in the home: fine particulate matter – the kind of pollution created by cooking, smoking, and burning candles; and nitrogen dioxide, which is pollution released from burning fossil fuels, like gas in your car.

When there was just a 10-degree increase in air temperature inside, COPD patients living in homes with the most indoor air pollution experienced a severe increase in symptoms. They also needed to use their rescue inhalers more often. The increased symptoms began immediately upon entering the home with a higher temperature and lasted for as long as two days.

Do You Have COPD?

COPD is an umbrella term used to describe lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis and non-reversible asthma. It’s very common, affecting more than 30 million people in the United States.

However, it’s estimated that as many as half of all people living with COPD don’t know they have it. They may think their symptoms are a normal sign of aging, and they may not seek help until they lose a significant amount of their lung function. Common symptoms of COPD include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest.

Certain people are at higher risk for COPD depending on their history and background. The three most common risk factors for COPD are:

  • Smoking: Roughly 90 percent of people with COPD have smoked.
  • Environmental: Exposure to harmful chemicals in the workplace, dust, fumes and secondhand smoke may also lead to COPD.
  • Genetic: Some people have a genetic risk factor that makes them more likely to get COPD even if they never smoked or were exposed to environmental factors that cause COPD.

Controlling Your Symptoms

There are a few things you can do to help keep your symptoms under control during the winter months. “Keep your thermostat warm enough so that you are comfortable, but not so warm that you risk increasing your symptoms,” says Daniel DuPont, D.O., pulmonologist and associate chair of Clinical Medicine for Crozer-Keystone Health System

“You should also take measures to reduce the amount of indoor air pollution in your home,” Dr. DuPont adds. If you cook, make sure that you always use the exhaust fan to help direct particulate matter away from your living space. Do not smoke or allow smoking in your home. Use a gas or electric heater instead of your fireplace or wood-burning stove to heat your house. Finally, avoid excessive burning of candles and incense, which increase the amount of indoor air pollution.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of COPD, talk to you doctor about the most appropriate treatment.

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