The impact of personal and outdoor temperature exposure during cold and warm seasons on lung function and respiratory symptoms in COPD

ERJ Open Res. 2022 Mar 14;8(1):00574-2021. doi: 10.1183/23120541.00574-2021. eCollection 2022 Jan.


Rationale: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients often report aggravated symptoms due to heat and cold, but few studies have formally evaluated this.

Methodology: We followed 30 Boston-based former smokers with COPD for four non-consecutive 30-day periods over 12 months. Personal and outdoor temperature exposure were measured using portable and Boston-area outdoor stationary monitors. Participants recorded daily morning lung function measurements as well as any worsening breathing (breathlessness, chest tightness, wheeze) and bronchitis symptoms (cough, sputum colour and amount) compared to baseline. Using linear and generalised linear mixed-effects models, we assessed associations between personal and outdoor temperature exposure (1-3-day moving averages) and lung function and symptoms, adjusting for humidity, smoking pack-years and demographics. We also stratified by warm and cold season.

Results: Participants were on average 71.1±8.4 years old, with 54.4±30.7 pack-years of smoking. Each 5°C increase in personal temperature exposure was associated with 1.85 (95% CI 0.99-3.48) higher odds of worsening breathing symptoms. In the warm season, each 5°C increase in personal and outdoor temperature exposure was associated with 3.20 (95% CI 1.05-9.72) and 2.22 (95% CI 1.41-3.48) higher odds of worsening breathing symptoms, respectively. Each 5°C decrease in outdoor temperature was associated with 1.25 (95% CI 1.04-1.51) higher odds of worsening bronchitis symptoms. There were no associations between temperature and lung function.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that higher temperature, including outdoor exposure during the warm season and personal temperature exposure year-round, may worsen dyspnoea, while colder outdoor temperature may trigger cough and phlegm symptoms among COPD patients.