COPD in a Polar Vortex

EarthMuch of America experienced a cold phenomenon known as a “polar vortex” recently. What, exactly, was that? According to Scientific American, it is a pattern of wind that circles around the Arctic and the North Pole. The weather condition that contains it to that Arctic region, called the “vortex”, can weaken and therefore that cold wind streak is able to trickle down into North America. This cold wind has the power to “push” warmer wind patterns out and therefore an intense cold sets in.

This weather was a force to be reckoned with in early January. Many cities and states reported record lows in temperatures, including several cities in the South that aren’t normally subject to that kind of cold. The Weather Channel reports that as many as 187 million were projected to be affected by the vortex. Central Park in New York recorded a 4 degrees temperature, breaking a record that had stood for over 100 years. Illinois, Indiana, Texas, and Oklahoma also saw temperatures drop to record lows in certain areas. To make matters worse, thousands of flights were cancelled across the country because conditions were unsuitable to fly in.

Clearly, this was more than just an average winter cold spell.

These were particularly frightening times for people with COPD, given how cold weather and wind can affect breathing. One of the most important things during extreme cold weather is planning: when you look ahead at the weather, you can plan out your meals, get to the store to stock up on food and groceries, and have everything in place before the worst cold sets in.

If you do choose to venture out during a cold spell, it is important to keep your body warm by bundling up in all areas, not just by wearing a warm coat. When your body starts getting cold, the airways in the body begin to constrict, thus making breathing tougher. That is why it is also important to limit exposure to the cold by making short trips outside.

So the Polar Vortex is behind us, but is there more bad weather on the horizon? The Farmers Almanac weather predictions for the remainder of 2014 indicate that almost every area of the country is in for at least one more cold spell and one more stretch of winter precipitation before the season is over. So while Polar Vortex 2.0 is thankfully not imminent, it sounds like no one is completely out of the woods yet.

Bundle up and be careful, and follow the Inogen blog for all the latest tips and recommendations all winter long!

Photo Credit: Jet Stream, Wikipedia

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