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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)

COPD and Colorado Rockies

07/08/2010

Question:

My husband has mild COPD, no oxygen and uses Advair and Albuterol. We presently live at sea level and he wants to visit the Rockies at 7,000 to 10,000 feet. When we walk up inclines here, he often struggles to catch his breath. He does push himself and is otherwise healthy, however, I am concerned. Should I be?

Answer:

Traveling to altitude can be a challenge for patients with chronic lung disease. The fact that your husband does not use oxygen at sea level is important but does not exclude the possibility that he may need supplemental oxygen at 8000 feet.

Many pulmonary function laboratories have the ability to test for oxygen requirements at altitude (which includes transcontinental flights where the cabin pressure may also be equivalent to 8000 feet altitude). It is reasonable to ask your physician for advice in his particular situation.

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Response by:

Mark D Wewers, MD Mark D Wewers, MD
Professor of Pulmonology, Allergy, Critical Care & Sleep
Molecular Virology, Immunology & Medical Genetics
Environmental Health Sciences
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University