I’m one of the lucky ones who gets to live in Scotland. In winter, it has breathtaking views, crisp mornings, incredible sunrises and starry nights. It can encapsulate all the features a wonderful and sparkly, merry winter is supposed contain.
But for chronic sufferers and those with COPD, it can be a dangerous beauty. I make all the effort I can in winter, to wrap up, eat well, sleep well and take all my vitamins, but it still didn’t stop me getting hospitalised for four nights just this week.
I have a hunch that I caught the flu from my partner who had managed to get it from his boss. Must’ve been contagious! Anyhow, it couldn’t have been coincidental.
I wont lie, I was super frustrated! Because just 3 weeks prior, I had lost my voice and had a chest infection, for which I received antibiotics. Before, I had been doing so well for about 7 months where my health had been very stable and good with no issues. I hated the feeling of being rundown, lethargic, wheezy, breathless, sick… and hospitalised with antibiotics being pumped into my body yet again.
Whilst grateful for the amazing ambulance staff, NHS cost-free care and my wonderful doctor who always does his utmost to look after me and find answers, I was disappointed and fraught with worry and fear again. Many things running through my mind, more antibiotics in my body- will I forever become reliant and immune soon? Will I just be hospitalised 20 times a year? Will I ever be stable? Will my lungs be okay in the short and long term? Can I have kids? How will I be a good mum if I’m always ill? Will I recover? Am I weak? Am I not doing enough to help myself? Do I deserve to be sick? Will my cyst come back again due to stress? Will I really need a lung transplant later in life (as doctors had been mentioning the waiting list as a precaution)?
Despite my best intentions and journey of building emotional and mental strength, I felt I was descending again. And then I asked myself if I was being a drama queen and being an ungrateful, selfish little girl! Not counting my blessings, not yet, a refined, strong, positive woman able to fight on in any battle, despite being 31. See. See what the brain does when this happens. It goes on and on.
And then I realised, ups and downs. Ying, yang. It’s okay, ‘you’re human’ I said to myself. And there’s a pattern here. Last winter, you were extremely ill with similar symptoms (coughing up horrible mucus, wheezy, ‘rattling’, breathless) and it really is the difficulty of managing cold air and when the general population is rife with germs and yucky illnesses. Oh winter, winter, winter.
It’s just that, as a COPD sufferer, like anything else, you need to take more precaution and manage it better, like you do with everything else. Not being a passive bystander. I know, another thing on the list, but it’s worth it if you want to prevent time spent in hospital…and once you have a bad spell like that, it can take a long time to recover again. So it is worth all of the preventative measures.
And this applies as a reminder to myself as well as top tips! So here goes:
- Stay away from people with flu or colds. Sounds obvious but how it affects them is much different to how it affects you. Their immune system isn’t already compromised and a sniffle for them is a hospital visit for you. If, like me, your close family and friends have it… well… I guess it’s no closeness or hugs! Simple as that. And constant hand washing, as well as thorough disinfecting of the house, so use gloves when ridding of the used sniffly tissues. And without aggravating your breathing (use a mask), spray the shit out of surfaces using anti-bacteria spray. Or use wipes. I should’ve followed all that, but I didn’t and it’s how I ended up in hospital this time- I’m sure of it!
- Wrap up in layers and use a scarf or mask to cover your mouth. The layers are more effective than one big wooly jumper. You need “the base layer (against your skin) manages moisture> the insulating layer protects you from the cold; and the shell layer (outer layer) shields you from wind and rain” The insulating layer helps you trap air close to your body to keep you warmer. I’d recommend golf or sports shops that will help you get key pieces you can wear most days and weeks int the winter. Additionally I use Buff multi-headwear as a pre-scarf to cover my mouth and nose, as it’s more ‘breathable’ for me than a wooly scarf which just seems to block me more. It also has special and the most premium materials for optimum breathing in all temperatures (in desert-like climates or skiing), so perfect for winter. Using a mouth-scarf helps warm up the the air before it enters your lungs.
- If you use oxygen, keep the hose under your coat. This keeps it as warm as possible.
- Exercise at home. Exercise is still important, but if it’s too cold to go outside, try do some cardio and yoga at home. The urge to stay in bed is oh so strong, I feel it all the time, but I don’t want to compromise my health by letting my respiratory muscles get weak. I adopt the just-do-it method ( don’t even think about not wanting to do it, just start doing it for 10 mins, even if you’re not motivated and by getting into it after 10 mins, you’ll want to finish it, more than stop it).
- Keep up with or increase the eating and good nutrients. COPD naturally use more energy than average on normal days, so on winter days, your body will be working harder to keep warm and breath. But this doesn’t mean, reach for the fatty sugary foods which you’ll naturally be drawn to with lack of sunlight. A conscious effort needs to be made in continuing with healthy foods. But winter is the seasons for rich, hearty foods. So you can enjoy this. Who doesn’t love scotch broth or lentil soup?! Or a lovely, warming ginger tea? Additionally, I also make sure to take tumeric supplements, cod liver oil and multi-vitamins.
- Sleep more. This is the foundation of good health along with eating well. Both food and sleep is your medicine. And as much as I preach about it, I’m also guilty of not following my own rule sometimes. I realised that before I fell ill, I hadn’t particularly slept well that week and it was probably a contributor to weakening my system as well as the flu. So I’m making a more conscious effort to get more quality sleep.