Is Ocean/Sea Air Good For COPD?

Is Ocean/Sea Air Good For COPD?

Sea air has seen centuries of popularity as a rejuvenating and relaxing alternative to the smoggy and polluted air of a cramped and dense city. While recent advances have dramatically reduced and minimized cities' pollution, seaside air may be a healthier and calmer option for various individuals — including COPD patients. 

People long believed that ocean air had healing, curative, and restorative properties. Even before scientific evidence arose, doctors from long before were advising their patients with lung diseases and skin issues to visit the beach. It didn't take long for the science community to begin researching the health benefits of sea air.

The proposed list of health benefits from breathing in sea air makes people wonder just how effective it is for those with COPD. 

Is Sea Air Good for COPD?

With the rise of a relatively new therapy form called salt therapy or halotherapy gaining widespread popularity worldwide, more and more people are beginning to wonder about the benefits of breathing in salt-rich air.

Several people visiting or frequenting the beach report positive results like breathing better or feeling rejuvenated. Many are also reporting remarkable improvements to their skin.

These health benefits reported are often tied to bathing in seawater and breathing in salt or ocean air. It isn't precisely known either. It turns out that belief in the beneficial effects of seawater and a salty environment came from an old and unconventional practice called thalassotherapy.

Dating from the 19th century, Thalassotherapy was a popular alternative that harnesses the sea's curative powers and soothing properties. It involves the therapeutic usage of seawater, shore climate, and sea products. Practitioners claim that the properties of seawater and sea air have beneficial effects on the lungs and skin.

However, there is very little sound clinical evidence from those bygone times to suggest that breathing in sea air had any true health benefits

According to an article by Reader's Digest, sea air is good for the health as it provides quite a list of various health benefits that can improve the respiratory system and immune systems. Aside from a person's skin and respiratory organs, sea air is thought to improve circulation and body defenses.

There remains a need for high quality studies to determine the effectiveness of halotherapy for COPD.  

two elderly with COPD sitting at the beach

What Sea or Ocean Air Do to the Lungs

For almost two centuries now, people have flocked to the beach and seaside or have taken part in salt baths in hopes of treating certain medical conditions, including COPD and pulmonary fibrosis. It is now a common belief that breathing in fresh ocean air can aid in treating people who suffer from respiratory problems.

Some data exist to prove that inhaling salt air can clear out the lungs, says Dr. Thomas Ferkol. A study in Australia tracked the effects of salt air on surfers with cystic fibrosis. After 48 weeks of data collection, the researchers found that inhalation of a saline solution helped clear the patients' lungs. Additionally, patients also showed signs of lesser flare-ups and required fewer antibiotics.

Another study found that there are therapeutic properties to sea air that helped improve the conditions of lung disease patients. It tested patients with cystic fibrosis  to see if there was any common or overlapping improvement in their symptoms.

While the results were on an individual basis, there are some standard results from those that inhaled hypertonic saline:

  • Improved lung and respiratory function
  • Lessened sinus pressure
  • Reduced coughing
  • Thinner mucus

To-date, no studies have shown that hypertonic saline inhalation or sea air benefits COPD patients. 

Health Benefits of Breathing Sea Air

Living by or visiting the sea isn't just about enjoying the beach life. It isn't just about basking under the sun's rays, digging your toes on the warm sand, or widening your palate with the scrumptious seafood fresh from the sea. As it turns out, breathing in the sea air may also provide health benefits.

Pulmonary and Respiratory Benefits

According to the Lung Institute, sea air can help improve lung function and reduce coughing in people with certain lung diseases. Ocean air has tiny droplets of seawater — which contains magnesium, salt, and iodine.

When you breathe in the sea air, you also inhale these certain restorative particles. The theory is that doing so stimulates your immune system to clear and flush the gunk in your lungs. A period of inhalation may lead to the loosening of the mucus in your respiratory tract, which helps clear your airways.

Additionally, a trip to the beach and seaside counts as a break from harmful airborne toxins, vapors, and pollutants primarily found in cities, like soot and exhaust fumes.

However, there is no conclusive clinical evidence that supports the idea that ocean air has any significant health benefits for COPD patients. 

Breathe Easier

The fresh and soothing ocean air is believed to have several health benefits. One study found that inhaling salt solution helped individuals suffering from cystic fibrosis by reducing flare-ups and improving breathing.

If you have COPD, a deep breath of ocean air might be what your lungs need to loosen up. Seaside air may have hidden benefits to respiratory health. Could its trace elements help reduce respiratory symptoms of asthma and improve allergies?

Also, even those individuals who don't have COPD or other respiratory issues can enjoy the freshness of the air by the sea. It can make them feel refreshed. 

Reduces Respiratory Inflammation

The oceanside air contains a mist of saline water. There is ongoing research to see if this element has a soothing effect on the mucosal lining of a person's respiratory system. Can it help those suffering from inflammatory respiratory issues, like sinusitis, benefit from breathing in the balmy ocean air?

Higher Levels of Vitamin D

Spending days on the beach allows you more sun exposure than you usually would experience in the city. Not only are you getting the benefits of the sea air, but you're also being exposed to higher levels of Vitamin D! Sun exposure, with a healthy coating of sunscreen, is a great way to receive Vitamin D.

Doing so reduces the risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency, which has been associated with severe health problems like diabetes, anemia, cancer, depression, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, brain damage, and infertility.  

Good For Mental Health

Many people appreciate the soothing sounds of nature. Some claim it helps alleviate their problems, like anxiety, depression, and lack of sleep. Can nature sounds, especially the sounds of chirping birds, sharp winds, and waves crashing on rocks, help people recover from psychologically stressful events?

Additionally, can visual impressions and soothing sounds of nature help the mind heal faster?

Better Mood and Sleep

One of the reasons why the beach and seaside have such calming effects is that sea air is laden with negative ions, which may contain mood-enhancing properties. A study found that negative air ionization was associated with lower depression scores.

Future research is needed to evaluate the biological plausibility of this association.

Can these negative ions help improve a person's oxygen intake and assist in balancing the serotonin levels of the body?

A More Active and Healthier Lifestyle

Another excellent benefit of sea air, especially for those with COPD, is that it can increase the chances of engaging in a healthier lifestyle. With improved lung function and reduced respiratory symptoms, patients can engage in more physical activities to help remain active.

The sea offers the chance to swim, while the shore provides the opportunity to jog and run. Moreover, there are various sea-related activities you can participate in, like surfing, sailing, and paddle boarding.

two elderly with COPD walking by the beach

Tips for COPD Patients Visiting the Beach

For those COPD patients that decided that they would prefer to chill on the beach rather than hike a hill, you will need to take extra care to ensure an incident-free vacation. Here are a few helpful tips you can follow:

Plan Thoroughly

It is not a secret that COPD limits one's life. Those with COPD need more rest and are advised to not overdo rigorous physical activities. Fortunately, there are ways to manage the symptoms and enjoy your vacation simultaneously.

You will need to plan everything thoroughly. Take the time to plan out all your vacation days. List the itineraries, jot down estimated time frames, add a generous amount of downtime to relax, and ensure that you have your portable oxygen concentrator with you at all times.

Talk To Your Doctor

Traveling to your planned destination can cause health issues, especially if you're getting there by plane. Ensure that you talk with your doctor first before booking your plane tickets. Discuss with them everything you need to know and have them perform all the necessary tests to ensure that you are genuinely fit for flying.

We have an extensive list of tips for travelling with COPD. Read more about them here.

Take It Easy

Once you are there at the beach, take it easy. Understandably, you would want to go wild once you gaze upon those azure waves but make sure you don't overdo it.

Even on vacation, don't forget to follow your diet plan, sleeping schedule, meal times, and medications. If you have severe COPD symptoms, ensure that you have your POC units and all relevant accessories and equipment.

Avoid Extremely Rigorous Activities

Avoid extremely tiring or exhaustive activities like beach volleyball, water skiing, wakeboarding, and scuba diving. Only proceed with these activities if you are confident you can handle them and have thoroughly discussed them with your doctor.

Meanwhile, the relaxing and soothing activities that you can try include:

  • A walk on the beach
  • Sunbathing
  • Swimming
  • Sightseeing
  • Fishing
  • Bird watching

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the best place to live if you have COPD?

Some of the best places and cities to live in the US if you have COPD are Prescott (Arizona), Cheyenne (Wyoming), Naples (Florida), Fayetteville (Arkansas), and Honolulu (Hawaii).

Why is salty air good for your lungs?

There is ongoing research to determine if breathing in salty air offers detoxifying effects that can reduce several symptoms of various respiratory conditions, lessen inflammation, and strengthen the immune system. It may  help improve overall well-being and quality of life.

Does ocean air have more oxygen?

At least half of the Earth's oxygen originated from the ocean. Scientists estimate that approximately 50-80% of the world's oxygen production comes from the sea.

Travel To the Beach With The Best Portable Oxygen Concentrators

The ocean has healing, calming, and restorative powers, which also extend to ocean air. Can a few days spent on the beach and being exposed to the fresh seaside breeze help those with COPD breathe easier and have better lung function?

Regardless of whether you're only staying at the beach for a short vacation or ultimately converting to a seaside lifestyle, make sure you enjoy the health benefits of breathing sea air. Also, to ease your worries about potentially experiencing COPD symptoms while you're at the seaside, bring a portable oxygen concentrator with you.


Written by Andy Flynn

 Andy Flynn - co-founder sprylyfe and arya biomed

Andy Flynn is the founder of Sprylyfe, the leading retailer of portable oxygen concentrators in the United States. He also co-founded ARYA BioMed.

Get to know him on LinkedIn.

Medically Reviewed By Aaron Gravely, M.D.

 Aaron Gravely MD, researcher, medical doctor

Aaron L. Gravely, M.D. is a professional medical writer and physician-scientist with over 8 years of experience in healthcare and medical research.

Get to know him on LinkedIn or read his published works.

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Sylvia Mcginlay - April 9, 2023

I have emphysema and on 2ltrs of oxygen
Came to stay at my sons house at the seaside and is more breathless than usual and has to put up my oxygen certain times of the day

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