Air conditioners are commonly used around the country during the warmer months. But if you are living with bronchiectasis, the colder air circulating from air conditioning could trigger worsening of symptoms such as cough or breathlessness.
Triggers differ between individuals. If you are experiencing difficulties in an air-conditioned environment, don’t panic; it is not unusual. Speak to your GP or health professional about your symptoms, and update your action plan so you have a clear, written course of action to manage your symptoms as they occur.
To help create a healthier indoor environment, where possible switch your air conditioner to recirculate. Living with a chronic lung condition such as bronchiectasis can leave you sensitive to changes in air quality plus, research suggests, sudden changes in temperature.
Respiratory physicians, Associate Professors Lucy Burr and Lucy Morgan, spoke on the subject of cold air and vitamin D during our recent webinar, noting how cold air can exacerbate coughing fits.
A/Prof Morgan explains that colder air from air conditioning can trigger irritations to either the upper airways (nose/throat) or lower airways.
“If these airways are already swollen or inflamed, that will often trigger a sense of chest tightness and cough,” she says.
A clear nose will usually warm the air you breathe in and act as a filter, reducing the intake of particles that can irritate your lower airways. But predominantly breathing through your mouth will allow more of these particles to reach the chest and lungs; and may lead to irritation. We encourage you to discuss any nasal symptoms you are experiencing with your doctor, who can talk through management options.
Summer means more air conditioning and more sun!
Research has shown that low vitamin D levels are common in people living with bronchiectasis. Speak to your GP about your vitamin D levels, which can be determined with a simple blood test. If recommended by your doctor, taking a vitamin D supplement is an easy way to help strengthen the body and fight infections.
As for “nature’s vitamin D”, while it’s important to take care when exposing yourself to the sun, spending a short amount of time outdoors (as little as 10 minutes) can help. You can read recommendations on sun exposure via the Cancer Council here.