Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease COPD is a term used to describe a chronic and progressive inflammatory lung disease—such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema— that obstructs airflow from the lung, making it difficult to breathe. If you have COPD or are caring for someone who does, it’s important to carefully manage the disease to keep it under control. There’s a lot you can do to modify your home environment, activities, and habits to help avoid the triggers of a COPD flare-up.
Improving air quality at home
There are many allergens and irritants in the air in your home that can trigger COPD symptoms. It may not be possible to avoid a respiratory infection completely, but following these tips can help you lower your risk of infection and help manage your COPD at home:
- Do not allow smoking in your home.
- Open windows and run exhaust fans to ventilate.
- Remove clutter and clean dust with a damp cloth.
- Wash your linens weekly and keep floors and carpets clean.
- Use an air filtration system and replace air conditioner and furnace filters as needed.
- Get inspections on gas heater and stove regularly; avoid using wood-burning fireplaces.
- Avoid exposure to cleaning products, paints, and varnishes.
- Inspect bathrooms, basement, and garage regularly for mold and mildew.
Taking care when outside your home
The air quality outside your home can irritate your lungs and worsen your COPD symptoms. Here are some tips for avoiding a flare-up when you’re outside:
- In cold weather, breathe through your nose and use a cold weather mask.
- On hot and humid days, stay indoors with the air conditioner on.
- Limit your exercise or physical activity when outside.
- Avoid outdoor air pollution from traffic and other sources.
Caring for yourself
You play an important part in reducing your symptoms, improving how you feel, and keeping yourself out of the hospital. Here are some things you should be sure to do:
- Take your medications exactly how your doctor prescribed.
- Keep your doctor appointments.
- Monitor your symptoms and your weight.
- Adapt your diet and fluids if you are advised to do so by your doctor.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine.
- Quit smoking!
By preventing infections, you can avoid the COPD symptoms from getting worse. Here are some steps you can take to help prevent contracting an infection:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and mild soap.
- Stay away from crowds and people with known infections.
- Keep your airways clear and stay hydrated.
- Clean your equipment, including oxygen masks and flutter valves.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Ask your doctor about getting an annual flu vaccine and if it’s time for a pneumonia vaccine.
Knowing when to seek medical help
Call your doctor or elder home care professional if you experience:
- Increased wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath
- Fever over 101 degrees
- Increase in amount or change in color of mucus
- Sudden weight gain of three pounds or more
- Dizziness, headaches, vision problems, or confusion
Lastly, conserving energy is essential for staying healthy when you have COPD. If you use less energy during daily tasks, and develop strategies to get around your home more easily, you will have more energy for other activities throughout the day. Consider enlisting the help of an elder home care professional to assist you with personal care and household tasks so you don’t expend too much energy on everyday activities.