HOW TO BE COOL with Your Breathing by Rachel Garrod

If you have breathing problems, this time of the year can be very tough. The heat – and we experience a lot of it here in Spain, even into earlyautumn – can adversely affect your breathing and make it difficult to keep active. Pollen allergies may be worse, especially during summer, and increased ozone in the air causes the muscles in the airways to constrict, resulting in wheeziness. So keeping cool is essential. Apart from the obvious things such as staying out of the sun, keeping hydrated and wearing loose clothes made of natural fibres, there are a few extra things we can do that might help. I like to keep a damp face cloth in the fridge and place that on my forehead or back of neck when the heat becomes particularly uncomfortable. Wrapping a bag of frozen peas or ice cubes in a damp tea towel and using that as a cooling aid is also beneficial. For people with breathing problems, air conditioning can leave them feeling dry-mouthed and tight-chested so in that case (or if you just don’t have air conditioning) a ceiling fan is a great option. Having a portable fan that you can take around the room with you (or more than one) is also a good idea, and I would always advise having access to a fan of some sort when cooking.

There is an old wives’ tale that drinking hot drinks will leave you cooler than a cold one, and in fact there is some science to this. One study showed that by drinking something hotter than the body temperature we increase the amount we sweat. Since the evaporation of sweat is what helps us cool down – as long as there is movement in the air to encourage evaporation (think portable fan again) and you are wearing loose clothing – the body temperature will be lower than before the drink. Another trick is to put cold water (or hold an ice cube) on both pressure points of your wrists. This lowers the temperature of the blood within your arms which is then recycled through the body. This should keep you a cooler for up to an hour. Even though it is hard, in the heat, we still need to keep active. Try getting some exercise first thing in the morning before it is too hot, or in the early evening once the heat of the sun has died down a little. And finally, even though a long gin and tonic is tempting, alcohol does mess with our thermoregulatory centre, so it’s wise to keep the booze to a minimum or avoid it totally when it is very hot. Here’s to staying cool!

Rachel Garrod (Ph.D. Physiotherapist) specialises in physiotherapy for older people with chronic respiratory disease and other chronic illnesses.

Tel. (+34) 699 501 190

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