Keeping well in the cold: What you can do

Keeping well in winter can be a challenge as temperatures drop and concerns about symptom flare-ups increase.

Here, Vicky – a nurse at the British Lung Foundation – shares some tried-and-tested ideas for protecting your health in these winter months.

You can read more on the British Lung Foundation website.

Every year, I speak to people who have called our helpline because they're concerned about the cold weather. I know it can have a big impact on people living with a lung condition.

None of us look forward to cold and damp weather, or the ice and wind they bring. It means we’re more likely to get a cold or flu - and if you've already got a lung condition, they can trigger a flare-up of your symptoms. Yes, it's a good idea to put on your hat, scarf and gloves when you go outside.

But there are other things you can do to as well. Here are my tips for looking after yourself in the cold weather:

Stay warm

  • Keep warm by wearing layers of clothing when it’s cold. This traps warm air better than one bulky layer. Thermal underwear can be very useful, along with woollen tights and socks. Have a blanket or shawl to hand as well.
  • Try to stay as active as possible to generate body heat. Get up, move around and try to do some exercise. When you’re indoors, try not to sit still for more than an hour or so. Chair exercises are a good way to keep warm and active.
  • Have regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day if you can. Eating regularly helps keep your energy levels up during the winter.
  • Heat your home to at least 18°C (64°F). You might prefer your living room to be slightly warmer during the day - especially if you feel the cold, know that cold air can trigger a flare-up, or are not able to move around easily.
  • Overnight in winter, it’s a good idea to keep your bedroom at this temperature too. You should wear warm nightclothes, too. Keep your bedroom window closed on a winter’s night. Breathing in cold air can increase the risk of chest infections.

  • Check the weather before going out. If it’s too cold or breezy for you, or you are not feeling well or are having trouble breathing, stay indoors and keep warm.
  • If you have an inhaler, use it half an hour before going outside. Carry your medication with you at all times, as cold air can tighten your airways making it harder for you to breathe.
  • Try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth. This will help warm the air.
  • Protect your lungs by wearing a hood or scarf that covers your mouth.
  • If you have a long-term or serious lung condition, ask your GP about getting a flu jab.
  • If you've not already had one, ask about a one-off anti-pneumonia vaccination too. It’s recommended if you have a long-term lung condition such as COPDbronchiectasis or pulmonary fibrosis.

Look after your lungs

You can always give us a call on 03000 030 555 if you’d like more advice or to get our references for this information.

We're available from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. We can also talk to you about extra help you might be entitled to during cold weather, such as winter fuel payments.