Topic: COPD

Handwashing: The Simplest Step to Better Health

What’s both incredibly simple and astonishingly powerful? Handwashing! The first full week of December is National Handwashing Awareness Week.  We’re here to dive into why this everyday activity is a game changer, especially for those of us managing chronic wounds or conditions like COPD and diabetes.

Why Handwashing is a Big Deal

You might be thinking, “It’s just handwashing, why does it matter?” It does! Handwashing is like your personal health guardian. It’s your frontline defense against germs that can lead to infections and other health complications.

For those with conditions like COPD or diabetes, your skin can be more vulnerable and your body may have a tougher time healing. This means that preventing infections through something as simple as regular handwashing can be a crucial part of managing your condition. It’s not just about cleanliness; it’s about maintaining your health stability. Each time you wash your hands, think of it as a positive, proactive step towards staying healthy and avoiding unnecessary complications.

In a world where health can be complex and challenging, handwashing is a straightforward, effective tool that everyone can use. It empowers you to take control of your health in a very real, tangible way.

The Science of Suds

When you have chronic conditions like COPD or diabetes, your immune system might be working overtime. This makes you more susceptible to infections. Germs are sneaky little things. They hitch a ride on our hands from everything we touch – door handles, medical equipment, even our phones (yep, they’re germ hotspots!). Washing your hands properly sends these germs down the drain, literally.

Washing Your Hands Like a Pro

Here’s the step-by-step to effective handwashing:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water. Warm or cold? According to the CDC, both are equally effective!
  • Lather up with soap. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under those nails. Soap and friction help lift the dirt, grease, and microbes from your skin so they can be rinsed away.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds. Studies show that washing hands for 15-30 seconds removes more germs than washing for a shorter amount of time.
  • Rinse well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Hand Sanitizer: The On-the-Go Option

Can’t get to a sink? Hand sanitizer is your next best friend, as long as your hands aren’t visibly dirty or greasy. Just make sure it contains at least 60% alcohol. Rub it all over your hands until they’re dry, and voilà!

Integrating Handwashing into Your Routine

For home medical patients, integrating handwashing into your daily routine is vital. Before and after using any medical equipment, make it a habit. Washing hands before checking your blood sugar, putting on your CPAP mask, or handling your oxygen concentrator can prevent infections and keep your equipment in top shape.

In the grand scheme of things, handwashing is a small act, but it holds immense power in protecting your health. This National Handwashing Awareness Week, commit to keeping those hands clean. This simple step makes a world of difference in managing your health with confidence and ease!

Summer Strategies for COPD Patients: Maximizing Fun and Minimizing Exacerbations

The sun is out, the weather is warm, and it’s time to get outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. However, the summer months can present unique challenges for individuals with chronic lung diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Coping with the heat, humidity, and potential triggers can be overwhelming. Still, with proper planning, you can make the most of the season while prioritizing your respiratory health. Here are nine tips to help you have a safe, healthy, and fun summer.

Stay Hydrated:

Hot weather can lead to dehydration. When your body is dehydrated, your airways become dry and inflamed, and your body can create more mucus, putting you at risk for an exacerbation. Make it a habit to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, preferably water, to keep your body well-hydrated. Limit or avoid beverages containing caffeine or alcohol, which can contribute to dehydration.

Plan Outdoor Activities Wisely:

Enjoying the outdoors is one of the best parts of summer. Plan your activities during the cooler parts of the day, typically early morning or evening. Avoid going out during the hottest hours, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when high temperatures and increased pollution levels can strain your lungs. Try to find shaded areas or carry an umbrella to shield yourself from direct sunlight.

Dress Appropriately:

Choose lightweight, loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabrics like cotton or linen. These materials allow air circulation, preventing excessive perspiration and discomfort. Additionally, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from harmful UV rays.

Manage Indoor Environments:

Ensure your indoor environment is comfortable and conducive to easy breathing. Keep your living space well-ventilated, use air conditioning or fans to maintain a cool temperature, and consider using air purifiers to minimize indoor pollutants. Avoid exposure to strong chemical odors or irritants, such as paint or cleaning products, which can trigger respiratory symptoms.

Stay Informed about Air Quality:

Keep track of the air quality index (AQI) in your area, as high pollution levels can worsen COPD symptoms. Several smartphone applications and websites provide real-time air quality information. If the AQI is poor, consider adjusting your plans or staying indoors to reduce exposure.

Carry Medications and Emergency Contacts:

Always carry your prescribed medications with you, including inhalers and any additional medications recommended by your healthcare provider. Ensure you have an emergency contact list, including your healthcare professional’s phone number, the number of your local Rotech office, and local emergency services.

Seek Shade and Take Breaks:

During outdoor activities, take regular breaks to rest and seek shade. Overexertion and excessive heat can strain your respiratory system. Listen to your body and pace yourself accordingly!

Avoid Smoke and Other Triggers:

Smoke, including smoke from grills, barbecues, or fireworks, can worsen COPD symptoms. Stay away from areas where smoking is permitted, and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Similarly, be cautious around strong fragrances, chemicals, and other known triggers that can irritate your lungs.

Prioritize Self-Care:

Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s allowing you to be the best version of yourself! Prioritize self-care to maintain your overall well-being. Get adequate rest, eat a healthy diet, and find things you enjoy that promote relaxation and reduce stress.

COPD: Strategies for a Happy Holiday

How do you have happy holidays when you’re dealing with COPD? For many people with COPD or other chronic lung diseases, it can seem difficult to make things merry during this time of year. Research shows that COPD exacerbations tend to increase during the holiday season1. We’ll go over some important COPD holiday strategies to help make sure your holidays are happy and healthy.

Take Care of Yourself

If you use supplemental oxygen or take medications, make sure you have an adequate supply. Remember that holiday closures and inclement weather may make getting additional tanks of oxygen or a trip to the pharmacy challenging, and travel plans can unexpectedly change. Plan ahead if you can!

Wash your hands frequently: before and after eating, when using the restroom, and when touching high-contact surfaces like door handles. Talk to your physician and make sure you’re up-to-date on any doctor-recommended vaccinations, including your flu shot!

Dress for the weather

Cold weather and COPD aren’t a good mix. Extremely cold temperatures can narrow airways, leading to a cascade of events that might increase difficulty breathing, mucus production, coughing, and more2. If outdoor activities are a must, schedule them for warmer times of the day. Continue to monitor air quality before you head outside. While family members may vacation during the holidays, air pollution doesn’t.

Wearing a scarf or mask on your face can help warm up air before you breathe it into your lungs. Stay warm, dress for the weather, and don’t spend time outside if temperatures are low.

Enjoy, but don’t overindulge

Turkey, ham, prime rib, and all those side dishes, beloved holiday desserts and cookies! While an occasional treat or indulgence is fine, eating mostly healthy foods in small portions will help keep your body healthy and happy. Avoid gas-producing foods that might contribute to a bloated feeling and make breathing uncomfortable. If your COPD makes it hard to eat a full meal, dine slowly; take small bites and chew your food thoroughly. Eat more frequent, smaller meals instead of two or three large ones during the day.

If you’ve been prescribed continuous oxygen therapy, make sure you wear your cannula while eating. Eating and digestion both require energy, and your body needs oxygen for that!

Get enough rest

It’s tempting to stay up later than normal or push yourself to attend just one more gathering, but not getting enough sleep or allowing yourself to overdo it can leave you run down and even more susceptible to illness or exacerbations. Make sure you’re getting enough rest, and if you feel fatigued or overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to leave an activity or event.

Watch for exacerbation triggers

From baking gingerbread to newly cut Christmas trees, or maybe the freshly-bleached scent of a well-scrubbed house, the holidays bring with them a lot of scents. Even when they’re pleasant, scents can make you cough, wheeze, have more shortness of breath than usual, and increase COPD exacerbations. Know how strong scents affect you, and have a plan to deal with them if necessary.

Wood smoke from stoves and fireplaces can also cause you to cough and have trouble breathing. Burning wrapping paper can release toxic chemicals into the air. If you want a fire lit for some atmosphere, an alternative might be an electronic fireplace, a display of unscented candles, or maybe even a yule log video on television.

Having Happy Holidays with COPD

While living with COPD may require you to make some changes to your holidays, staying healthy and continuing to manage your condition is worth it so there are many more holiday seasons to come! Use these simple strategies to maximize your lung health, make new memories and enjoy the holiday season!

[1]: Johnston NW, McIvor A, Lambert K, et al. The Christmas season as a risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations. Can Respir J. 2010;17(6):275-281. doi:10.1155/2010/460532

[2] D’Amato, M., Molino, A., Calabrese, G. et al. The impact of cold on the respiratory tract and its consequences to respiratory health. Clin Transl Allergy 8, 20 (2018).

4 Reasons COPD Patients Don’t Eat Enough Food

Many COPD patients don’t eat enough, which can lead to unintentional weight loss. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, or COPD, makes it a struggle to breathe. That struggle burns a lot of calories. In fact, COPD patients can use up to 40% more energy per day than someone without COPD because of the increased effort it takes to breathe.

Patients who are underweight have an increased risk for infection, hospitalization, and other problems. Solving issues with breathing, energy levels, and your appetite can take a little bit of creative thinking and flexibility! Here are a few reasons we frequently hear COPD patients aren’t eating enough:

“I feel bloated and can’t breathe well after a meal.”

Try eating several small meals instead of two or three large meals during the day. Healthy, hearty snacks that include both protein and carbohydrates can also be helpful! Avoid gas-producing foods that might contribute to a bloated feeling, like beans, carbonated drinks, and sugar alcohols like xylitol or sorbitol used to replace sugar in sugar-free foods.

“I don’t have the breath or energy to cook well.”

Prepare nutritious foods that require less energy to make like breakfast for dinner, hearty snack plates, and slow-cooker meals. Fix larger portions, and freeze some (safely!) to warm up later. Convenience foods that are pre-cooked or ready-to-eat can provide good alternatives, but keep an eye on sodium levels if you’re on a salt-restricted diet. Don’t cook? Meals on Wheels can be a great inexpensive option!

“I don’t have any appetite.”

Some medications (e.g. theophylline) can upset your stomach, but the most common cause is swallowing mucus. If you cough up mucus or have sinus drainage, avoid swallowing the mucus as much as possible.

Scheduling and planning meals and snacks and eating something, even if you don’t necessarily feel like it, can help keep you on track.

“I just can’t eat that much!”

If you can’t eat a lot, focus on nutrient-dense foods that are higher in calories. Adding a dish of ice cream as an end-of-day treat can help, too! High-calorie supplement drinks can be useful when you’re unable to eat well. Special formulations for people with breathing problems are available, but talk with your doctor or dietitian for recommendations. Eating a good meal is always best, but a high-calorie, vitamin-rich drink can serve as a substitute in a pinch.

Proper nutrition is especially important for patients with breathing problems. When COPD patients don’t eat enough and become underweight, it can lead to more issues and health complications. Always talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian before making changes to your diet.

Looking for more information about living well with COPD? See our COPD Resources page!