What Is Copd?
It’s Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – an illness that interferes with how the lungs work.
COPD affects people:
COPD generally includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. These conditions make breathing difficult due to:
- Swollen, inflammed airways
- Damaged air sacs in the lungs
- Excess mucus
For example, people with COPD may experience:
But people with COPD can learn ways to feel better physically and emotionally. And Family members can help.
Living Life Well Is Possible
While there is no cure for COPD, there are ways to:
- Ease your symptoms with medication and other treatments
- Deal with anxiety when you are breathless
- Breathe more efficiently, so you can continue many of your normal activities
- Use less energy to get tasks done
- Protect yourself from infections and substances than can irritate your lungs
Work With Your Doctor
To develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Depending on your condition, your doctor may prescribe:
Medications may help:
- Open Airways
- Treat Lung Infections
- Reduce Coughing
- Reduce Mucus
- Decrease Anxiety
- Relieve Pain
For people who need it, oxygen therapy can improve life physically and mentally. If oxygen is prescribed to you:
- Discuss with your doctor about the benefits of long term oxygen therapy
- Talk to your doctor about the advantages and disadvantages of different types of oxygen delivery devices
- Ask medical equipment dealers who rent or sell oxygen equipment about costs and service calls
You play an important part in your treatment plan. Be sure to:
- ASK ABOUT SIDE EFFECTS OF MEDICATIONS – Find out when to report side effects to your doctor
- TAKE MEDICATIONS EXACTLY AS PRESCRIBED – Never change oxygen liter flow. And never increase, decrease or stop any other medications without consulting your doctor.
- FIND OUT ABOUT OVER THE COUNTER MEDICATIONS – Do not use them without your doctor’s advice.
- BE ALERT TO CHANGES – learn to recognise the warning signs of a possible attack. Know what to do about them.
- ASK QUESTIONS – If there’s something you don’t understand or something you would like to know more about, just ask. For example, you may have questions about medications, diet, exercise or breathing techniques.
If You Smoke, Quit!
Quitting smoking can help keep COPD from getting worse. Here are some tips to help:
- List your reason for quitting
- Choose a method for quitting – ‘cold turkey’ is the way to do it
- Change your routine, if possible, to avoid times and places that were a part of your smoking habit.
- Keep a diary of when and where you smoke. Recognizing patterns in your smoking habit can help you quit
- Pick a target date for quitting, and tell others
- Consider joining a comprehensive smoking cessation programme
You can also talk with your doctor about getting a prescription to help you quit.
Learn to Breathe Easier
These methods can help your lungs work more efficiently and calm you down when you feel breathless:
- Put one hand on your chest, this hand should remain still as you breathe.
- Put the other hand on your abdomen with your thumb just below your navel. This hand should rise and fall as you breathe
- Inhale through your nose to a count of 3. Exhale to a count of 6.
- Repeat for about 15 minutes
- Practice often. Learning to coordinate abdominal movements and breathing takes time.
You can use abdominal breathing while sitting, standing or reclining.
- Inhale slowly through your nose
- Pucker your lips, and slowly exhale, making a soft, hissing sound.
- Try pursed-lip breathing with abdominal breathing
Know How to Clear Mucus
Controlled coughing can help bring up mucus without exhausting you or harming your airways. Here’s how it works:
- Take a slow, deep breath through your nose
- Hold your breath for a few seconds
- Open your mouth slightly and let out 2 or 3 short, sharp coughs
- Relax and repeat
Other methods to loosen and help drain mucus from your lungs may be taught to you by your healthcare provider. Family members may also be taught how to help.
Combine a Healthy Diet With Regular Exercise
Here are the general guidelines:
- Eat a variety of healthy foods each day
- Eat small, frequent meals instead of a few large ones.
- Talk to your doctor if certain foods give you trouble. For eg, gas-producing foods (cabbage, beans, corn, etc.) may make breathing uncomfortable
- Drink lots of water, preferably between meals, unless your doctor recommends otherwise.
People who are in shape use less oxygen. Before you start an exercise program, ask your doctor:
- What kind of exercise to do (walking is often recommended)
- How long and how often to exercise
- Whether you need to adjust your medication and/or oxygen when you exercise
Help Prevent Additional Stress on Your Lungs
Colds and Flu
- Ask your doctor about vaccinations against flu and pneumonia
- Avoid contact with anyone who has a cold or the flu
- Call your doctor at the first sign of a cold or the flu (for eg, increased coughing, stuffy nose, fever, yellow or green mucus)
- Smoke – from cigarettes, fireplaces, etc.
- Dust and fumes – from paint, exhaust, perfumes, etc.
- Cold air
- Extremely dry or humid air
- Air pollution
Ask your doctor if air conditioners, air cleaners, humidifiers or dehumidifiers would help.
Stay as Active as Possible
Having COPD doesn’t necessarily put an end to:
- Talk to your employer. Simple changes in your job maybe all that’s needed
- Consider retraining for a new job.
- Rest before and after you have sex
- Use a position that requires less energy (such as lying side by side)
- Use pursed-lip breathing
- Consider other ways to share intimacy (holding, kissing, etc.)
- Ask your doctor about medical facilities and doctors available at your destination.
- Ask your oxygen supplier where to get oxygen (Remember to bring your prescription)
- Notify the airline in advance if you will need oxygen
- Carry an extra supply of medications on your person in case your luggage gets lost
Staying active can help make you feel good about yourself.
More Tips for Your Daily Living
Conserve Your Energy
- Alternate easy and difficult tasks
- Break difficult tasks into smaller steps. Rest between steps
- Use pursed-lip breathing. Exhale as you exert yourself
- Sit, whenever you can. Keep things you will need close by.
- Pull or push, instead of lifting, whenever possible
Use Relaxation Techniques
- Progressive muscle relaxation – Tensing, then relaxing each muscle group from head to toe
- Meditation – Focusing on a word or peaceful scene to achieve calmness
- Biofeedback – Teaching yourself to relax by using equipment that monitors muscle tension
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Talk with a friend or family member when you are angry, depressed, etc.
How Family Members Can Help
Share Your Feelings
You may experience many of the same emotions that the person with COPD does. You need to talk about your feelings too.
Support Efforts to Quit Smoking
Your loved one may need help to stop smoking. If you smoke, don’t smoke around your loved one – secondhand smoke is harmful. And, consider quitting for your own sake.
Allow your loved one to do as much as he or she feels able to do. His or her self-esteem depends on it.
Help With Treatment
Ask healthcare personnel how you can help at home
Join a Support Group
Talking with others who are affected by COPD can help people with COPD – and their family members.