The 2022 theme for World COPD Day is “Your Lungs for Life” and takes place on Wednesday November 16th. This year’s theme aims to highlight the importance of lifelong lung health. You are born with only one set of lungs. From development to adulthood, keeping lungs healthy is an integral part of future health and wellbeing.
The campaign will focus on contributing factors to COPD from birth to adulthood and what can be done to promote lifelong lung health as well as protect a vulnerable population.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the name for a group of lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties. It includes emphysema – damage to the air sacs in the lungs and chronic bronchitis – long-term inflammation of the airways.
COPD is a common condition that mainly affects middle-aged or older adults who smoke. Many people do not realise they have it. The breathing problems tend to get gradually worse over time and can limit your normal activities, although treatment can help keep the condition under control.
Symptoms of COPD may include:
- Shortness of breath when undertaking activities such as walking, working, and housework
- Production of phlegm
- A wheeze (especially in cold weather)
Temperature and weather can cause COPD symptoms to worsen. Cold, dry air or hot air can trigger a flare-up. According to a study, temperature extremes, below freezing and above 32°C, are particularly dangerous. Add in other factors, such as wind and humidity, and the risk of a COPD flare-up increases.
Despite the Government freezing the energy price cap, Age UK estimates that 2.8m older households will still be living in fuel poverty this winter. Cold weather can be a risk to health. Elderly people are especially vulnerable in winter months. Those with heart conditions are affected by the cold, their circulation puts stress on the heart. The cold takes away body heat so your heart needs to work harder to keep warm. Temperature and weather can also cause COPD symptoms to worsen.
Telehealth and telecare can monitor people and conditions at home with long term health issues and can enable them to stay in their homes rather than having to come in for GP appointments, can remotely monitor home temperatures and ultimately reduce the load on local hospitals.
Telehealth – the use of digital technologies to access health care services remotely and manage health care – allows the monitoring of patients with conditions such as heart failure, diabetes and COPD in their own homes. Docobo, a company who provide digital health and data management, has COPD case studies showing how remote monitoring has prevented hospital admissions, reduced ambulance call outs and reduced patient anxiety.
Telecare such as extreme temperature sensors are a solution for remote monitoring of unhealthy environmental temperatures. It is designed to detect three temperature situations: high, low and rapid rate of rise. It will detect if the indoor temperature is too hot or too cold. The sensor will provide early warnings which could prevent the person suffering from hypothermia or dehydration. Additionally, it offers protection to the property against things like burst pipes or potential fire hazards.
Falls are also a concern for people with COPD – a study has shown that they are 55% more likely to fall due to an increased risk of balance difficulties, muscle weakness, thinning bones and blackouts. The Vibby Falls Detector automatically detects hard falls in the home using a pressure sensor. It immediately raises an alarm to a monitoring centre or a carer. Raising an alarm as soon as a fall has occurred, and help arriving from emergency services, can prevent serious consequences.