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Top tips to stay well this winter with COPD

COPD top tips prepare for winter

We are urging the 139,000 Scots living with the incurable lung condition COPD to get winter ready.

Our handy checklist of eight simple steps will help you keep well this winter – and they could also help alleviate pressure on the NHS by avoiding hospital admissions.

COPD – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – is one of the most common reasons for emergency hospital admissions. Many of our service users found that their condition deteriorated during the pandemic as face-to-face rehabilitation services were cancelled and their activity levels reduced.

We fear that those with deteriorating health, plus any new patient diagnoses, could create tremendous pressure on Scotland’s NHS during the difficult winter months when colder weather increases the risk of contracting a chest infection.

So, to offer support, help and advice to all of those living with COPD, we’ve brought together people living with COPD and clinicians to develop a checklist of practical advice on becoming winter ready to stay fit and healthy.

Wrap up warm

Always wrap up well when going out and try to avoid going outdoors when the temperature drops below 2C.

“I tell patients they should not leave the house even just to go to the bins without putting a coat and hat or scarf on,” explains Lorna Stewart, who works for NHS Fife as a Team Leader in the Community Respiratory Nurse Team. She is also Joint Clinical Lead Respiratory in the Managed Clinical Network (MCN).

“Damaged lungs can’t deal with the cold air, so you need to filter it through a scarf over the mouth or something like that.”

Nurse Lorna Stewart shares some of her top tips for people living with COPD this winter.

Get vaccinated

Make sure you get your flu vaccine and Covid-19 vaccine booster this winter to help keep you protected from common winter illnesses.

“So much of the work around managing our patients is about anticipating care, and getting winter ready is our No.1 priority right now,” adds Lorna.

“We’re encouraging everyone to get their flu jabs and emphasising the importance of the jab.”

Stay active

Stay as active as possible during the winter months. A daily walk is ideal, or try some light exercise at home if it’s too cold to get outside.

Jock Shiells, 69, is a retired joiner from Eyemouth, who has been living with COPD for more than 15 years.

Jock says: “Winter is always the hardest time for anyone who has got a respiratory condition like COPD. But even in the coldest months, I always go swimming because it’s so important to exercise to help improve your breathing, and swimming is what has made the difference for me.”

COPD sufferer Jock Shiells finds staying active and swimming helps him manage his condition.

Clear your chest

Clear your chest every morning so there’s no build-up of mucus, helping you to breathe more easily.


It’s not always so easy to get out and about during the winter, and your local pharmacy may be closed during the Christmas holiday period.

Make sure you’re prepared for this, and ensure you have enough medication to see you through the holidays. Or, ask friends or family members to help with picking up prescriptions.

Wear a mask

To help protect you from winter viruses, wear a mask whenever possible.

Try to avoid contact with anyone who has a cold or flu to reduce your risk of catching it.

Eat well

A balanced diet, which is high in protein, will help prevent infections and keep your lungs and body healthy.

Throughout the winter – and the rest of the year – make sure your diet includes plenty of healthy options, including fruit, vegetables and proteins like meat or fish.

Breathing exercises

Practise your breathing exercises every day to maintain that control and manage your condition at home.

To find more information about COPD and how to live well with the condition, download our COPD Essential Guide.

Gourab Choudhury Clinical Lead for COPD and Respiratory Managed Clinical Network, NHS Lothian, says: “On this World COPD Day, let’s remind ourselves to focus on issues like further improving self-awareness of patients, preventing their physical decline by promoting activity, reinforcing the importance of smoking cessation even when the condition has progressed along with optimal pharmacotherapy.”

If you are living with COPD and are feeling worried about managing your condition this winter, please call our Advice Line on 0808 801 0899.

People are leaving hospital feeling scared and alone. You can change that.

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