A COPD Exacerbation or flair-up is a scary experience for patients – and their loved ones, who often feel helpless. While every COPD diagnosis is unique and has their own levels of progression, there are a few things that all COPD patients can do that can significantly reduce the chances of the flair-up occurring. Noted below are five things for COPD patients and their caregivers to consider completing, to help you live a higher quality of life with COPD.
First – Get an Annual Flu Vaccination
Most COPD patients who have been diagnosed with chronic bronchitis or emphysema will often experience an exacerbation or flair-up of symptoms at least once in their first year of official diagnosis. In most cases, a flair-up results in an emergency room visit or in some cases, extended hospitalization. One of the most common causes of an exacerbation or continued struggles with breathing is influenza or the common cold.
To reduce the onset of influenza, it’s vital for COPD patients to get an annual flu vaccination as soon as possible. It’s also recommended by many healthcare professionals for COPD patients to receive a vaccination for whooping cough and pneumonia. Being proactive about vaccination will help minimize your risk for infections that could cause complications with COPD.
Second – Improve Indoor Air Quality
Since most COPD patients spend more time indoors, finding ways to improve the quality of the air they breathe can also reduce the exacerbation. There are three things specifically that anyone living with COPD should do at home that can improve the quality of air.
- Stay on top of routine maintenance with heating and air conditioning systems by replacing filters as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Have the ductwork cleaned every year
- Invest in an indoor air purification system. While there are several types of these systems on the market, the best ‘bang for your buck’ is to consider a whole home system.
Third – Be Aggressive About Germs
COPD patients should be extremely cautious about exposure to germs. Patients should regularly wash their hands, wear protective masks while in public and always carry a bottle of sanitizer anytime you travel. It’s also a good idea for COPD patients to stay aggressive with house cleaning and for caregivers of COPD patients to assist as often as possible. Also, whenever possible, be aware of those visiting the house, making sure to reduce the potential of letting those who are sick into the home.
Fourth – Quit Smoking
While it’s the leading cause of COPD, it’s also the leading cause of severe complications for COPD patients. Contrary to popular belief, using E-cigarettes or vapor pens is NOT a viable alternative. In fact, research has shown that these products, or more specifically the ingredients in these products can be more harmful than tobacco. Using nicotine patches and gums are great ways to help quit smoking.
Finally – Stay Active
“COPD lends itself to be a couch potato,” as Right2Breathe® co-founder Chuck Morrison once said. However, A disease that makes it very difficult to breath can also make it very hard to stay active. COPD clinical trials have shown just how important exercise is for patients. Carrying around that extra weight can easily exacerbate your symptoms. On the other hand, research suggests that being too skinny can also cause problems with COPD. We recommend that you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet and work to maintain a healthy weight for your age and height.