How can I stay well this winter with an asbestos-related lung disease?

Posted: 21st Nov 18 8:30 AM

The nights are quickly drawing in, the wind is picking up and winter coats are being taken out of hibernation.

Every year at the National Asbestos Helpline, we get lots of people asking us about the cold weather and how it might affect them. We know first-hand that it can have a big impact on people living with an asbestos-related lung disease, such as pleural thickening, asbestosis, or mesothelioma.

No one really looks forward to the cold and damp weather that winter brings. It means we are more likely to get a cold or flu – and if you are already suffering with an asbestos-related lung disease, these can trigger or worsen your symptoms.

Although it is a great idea to just put on your hat, scarf and gloves when you venture outside, there are a number of other ways you can help keep your lungs safe during the winter months.

We have come up with some good tips and advice for looking after yourself or loved ones in the cold weather.

Staying warm with a lung condition

Multiple layers of clothing are always a good way to keep warm when it is cold. This helps to trap warm air better than just one heavy layer. Thermal underwear is also very useful, as well as woollen tights or socks. It is a good idea to have a blanket or throw-over handy as well.

Try to stay as active as possible, as this can help to generate body heat. Get up, move around and try to do a bit of exercise. If you are inside, try not to sit still for more than an hour – chair exercises are a good way to keep warm.

Having regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day helps to keep your energy and warmth levels up during winter.

Heat your home to at least 18C. You may prefer your living room to be slightly warmer during the day, especially if you feel the cold, or if you know that the symptoms of your asbestos-related disease might flare up.

During the nights, keep your bedroom at this temperature as well. You should wear warm nightclothes too. Keep your windows closed at night, because breathing in cold air can increase the risk of chest infections.

Looking after your lungs

Check the weather before you go outside. If it is too cold or windy for you, or you are having trouble breathing, stay indoors and keep yourself warm.

Try to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth, as this helps to warm the air you breathe in before it enters your lungs.

Try to protect your chest and lungs by wearing a hood and/ or scarf that covers your mouth  and nose when you go outside.

If you have a serious lung condition, such as pleural thickening, asbestosis, or mesothelioma, ask your GP about getting a flu jab or a one-off anti-pneumonia vaccination. This may not be appropriate in all cases, so make sure you remind your GP of your conditions and asbestos-related disease beforehand.

If you have any other questions that you wish to ask, or if anything is troubling you, remember to speak to your GP or a specialist respiratory consultant. If you have any further questions or queries regarding your asbestos-related condition, or to find out if there are any benefits you might be entitled to, give the National Asbestos Helpline a ring on Freephone 0800 043 6635.

Further reading

The British Lung Foundation

What is mesothelioma?

What is asbestos?

What is the mesothelioma compensation claims process?