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COPD at Home: What You Can Do to Manage Your Symptoms

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Nov 30, 2017

COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, produces a large amount of mucus in the respiratory system that can cause coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and extreme fatigue. It’s a progressive disease, which means that it gets worse over time.

You can manage the symptoms of COPD to slow its progression. This is called self-management: taking individual steps to reduce the impact of COPD on your overall health. Here’s a big list of ways to do it.


Ban Smoking from Your Home

More than 3 million Americans quit smoking every year. It’s difficult, but it’s important for people with COPD. Smoking can aggravate COPD symptoms - and this includes secondhand smoke. Consider banning all smoking from your home.

Eat A Healthful Diet and Get Moderate Exercise

If your diet isn’t already healthy, or if you’re not sure which exercises to do with COPD, consult with your doctor. Nutritious foods and moderate exercise can contribute to overall health, which promotes successful management of your COPD.

Seek Deep Sleep

COPD can interfere with good sleep, so it’s important to give yourself plenty of time to get long stretches of rest. Many people with COPD find that it helps to follow these guidelines:

  • If you must nap, do it early in the day. Avoid napping close to bedtime.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise, 3 times a week.
  • Don’t exercise, work, or do other strenuous things within 2 hours of bedtime.
  • Don’t go to bed hungry, and stick to protein-heavy snacks before bed.
  • Keep your bedding and feet warm, and keep your bedroom cool.
  • Avoid caffeine, especially after 5 p.m.
  • Maintain a regular sleeping/waking schedule.

Don’t Make Assumptions About Medications

If your doctor has prescribed medications for your COPD, follow instructions carefully. Never stop taking your medications because you are feeling better. If your medication seems to make you feel worse, report this to your doctor immediately.

Make sure you are aware of what to do if you miss a dose or lose your medication. Don’t double up on a missed dose unless your doctor says it’s okay. Prepare well in advance for vacations, so your medication remain on a regular schedule.

Refresh Your Cleaning Routine

When you have COPD, you have an increased risk of lung infections. They are often the result of bacteria and viruses in the environment. So keep your home clean and free of dust, dirt, and germs - but beware of making the problem worse with harsh chemicals.

Use natural, fragrance-free cleaners and establish a frequent cleaning routine. Consider adding an air filter and humidifier to your home to reduce airborne particles.

Practice New Breathing Techniques

People with COPD often feel relief from retraining their breathing. It might feel strange at first, but learning to breathe a new way can decrease shortness of breath and prevent sudden hyperventilation.

 One common breathing technique is called diaphragmatic breathing. Here’s how to do it: Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. While breathing in, push your stomach out. Breathe out slowly and evenly.

Another option is pursed lip breathing. This uses the same general diaphragmatic breathing technique described above, but when you breathe out, purse your lips slightly like you are going to whistle. Breathe out slowly through pursed lips, but don’t force the air out.

Learn Mucous Reduction Methods

Anyone with COPD has probably experienced the feeling of mucus clogging their airway. It can be a frightening and frustrating feeling. Ask your doctor about techniques for clearing your airway, which can be combined with bronchodilator medicine. Two common methods include:

  • The deep cough. Take in a breath and hold it for 3 seconds, then use your stomach muscles to expel the air. Don’t hack or clear your throat. 
  • The huff cough. Take a deep breath, and exhale while making a gentle “ha ha ha” sound.

If you need additional information about managing your COPD, contact the experts at Johnson Memorial Health today.

Topics: COPD