The Challenges of Summer for Respiratory Patients

Posted on July 14, 2017   |   
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This blog post was written by Katie Keating, RN, MS, patient advocate

Summer has finally arrived!!! It is a happy season for most people who enjoy spending more time outdoors. I loved summer to the nth degree when I was younger and before I experienced respiratory issues. Now, summers can be challenging for me for several reasons.

The warm temperatures are great as long as it is not too hot or humid. However, because high temps and high humidity can make respiratory patients feel exhausted quickly, I am now very cautious not to stay out too long on humid days because I know it will make me feel run down.  While every patient is different, historically, I have been ill with either MAC or another gram-negative infection every year in mid-August, over the past decade. My goal for this year is to prevent this reoccurrence.

Below are a few preventive measures that I am mindful of during the summer:

  • Pay attention to the weather channel to check when there are severe weather alerts for patients with respiratory issues.  Elevated ozone and particulate levels can greatly impact the way respiratory patients feel.It is wise to follow the recommendations made by your local weather channel to stay indoors during this time period.
  • Stay hydrated with fluids. Water and non-carbonated beverages are the best choice. Caffeinated beverages may give a boost; however they can lead to dehydration. Avoid high sugar drinks since mycobacterium thrive in high sugar mediums. We also want to avoid the co-morbidity of type-2 diabetes.
  • Have an extra inhaler, nebulizer solution, and mucinex on hand in case you cannot get out to the drug store for a few days in the extreme heat.
  • Avoid hot tubs, as tempting as they may be, since mycobacterium can dwell in hot tubs and easily become airborne.
  • Be cautious of the water mist over salad bars and soda machines with filters.
  • Avoid ice makers on refrigerators.
  • Air conditioners should be cleaned thoroughly. Fans should be cleaned regularly.
  • If traveling, research your hotel options. Some hotels are "green hotels" which cater to people who are concerned with air quality. Some of the finest hotels can have poor HVAC systems. While some hotels sell on the aesthetic beauty, they may not be sensitive to indoor air pollution concerns.
  • Pace yourself when traveling, as it can be exhausting for many respiratory patients. Discuss potential limitations with the people you are traveling with prior to departure.

It is very challenging to have to stay indoors when you feel that the majority of your friends and family do not live with these restrictions. Many do not understand the impact on your body if you push yourself and stay outdoors too much. Learn to say "no" more frequently to protect your respiratory system. Cumulative infections lead to worsening of bronchiectasis.

If you are unable to get outdoors as much due to the heat, please think ahead and select some diversional activities to keep you busy indoors, that are suitable for your energy level. Examples include old movies, music, books, craft projects, exercise, yoga or whatever gives you satisfaction and relaxation.  It is important not to socially isolate yourself; social isolation leads to angst and depression.  Depression adds to the current physical challenges of lower energy levels.

The good news is that new medications are in the pipeline for both the infections and the inflammation!!!! I hope and pray they are on the market in the very near future.

Embrace the good weather days of summer when you are able to do so, enjoy the beauty of a sunset. Pamper thyself occasionally to keep you “keeping on” through the challenging days.

The COPD Foundation advises that before you make any changes to your medication or therapies that you first consult with your doctor.


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  • I keep reading about refrigerator icemakers being a danger to bronchiectasis patients and would like to know if and how this risk can be mitigated. Is it the dispensing of the ice that's a danger? (because ice dispensing doesn't seem to aerosolize that way water being dispensed does.....???) Or is the risk in consuming the ice itself? Or perhaps having ice in my beverage tumbler is a problem? Can someone help explain this? Thanks
    • Mycobacterium a can grow in the plastic filters/ tubing. I had my refrigerator filter swabbed years ago and it revealed MAC. Some people can, or will change theses filters every 3-4 weeks to prevent growth- but this is a time consuming and expensive task. I just simply avoid water or ice cubes made via these filters. We will never be able to avoid all sources , fluids from filters but it is important to do the very best that we can. I order bottled water when I am out, I do not drink out of tap soda nor beverages from anything filtered. It takes time to learn and to apply all precautions but it is possible.
  • Uno
    How did you get your refrigerator swab tested? I'd like to know if NTM is present in my faucets or shower head but have no idea how you'd go about finding out.

    • I was part of a water study in 2013, conducted by Virginia Tech, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Falkinham. Perhaps, a local environmental company could direct you to someone who does home water samples.
    • I think current science suggests that we should assume there IS NTM in our faucets and showerheads. But if you discover any way to have them tested please share with us. Thanks.

  • Ksmiles do you drink bottled water at home. I use to but stopped due to the plastic.

    • Jean,
      Yes, I do drink bottled water most of the time. I know that plastics is a concern, but sometimes it is just easier than boiling water for 10 minutes. I never drink tap water or ice at a restaurant- we don’t know how often they clean their filters. Katie
    • Thanks you Ksmiles. I drink at least 100 ounces of water per day in addition to tea 1 or 2 cups. I was thinking about a water dispensing machine. Something simple without the filters if possible. I saw one at Walmart that is table top and states some parts are dishwasher safe. I did not know about the dangers of filters. Thanks for the input.