Keep Your Home Safe and Comfortable
If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or are caring for someone who does, it’s important to understand that the quality of the air in your home can aggravate COPD symptoms.
Your air quality at home may be poorer than you think. There are many allergens and irritants in the air that can trigger COPD symptoms. Avoiding a “flare-up” is vital. An exacerbation of your condition can lead to a lung infection, which may cause further lung damage.
Creating a home and daily habits that allow you to conserve your energy may also help you enjoy better quality of life. Take steps to create a space where you can rest comfortably and avoid overexerting yourself. With planning and care, you can manage your COPD symptoms.
Improving Air Quality
It may not be possible to avoid a respiratory infection completely. However, following these tips can help you lower your risk of infection and manage your COPD at home.
If you haven’t already, quit smoking. Smoking is the main cause of COPD, and cigarette smoke is a serious irritant. Ask your doctor for advice about quitting.
You will also want to avoid secondhand smoke, as it poses a serious health risk. Your home needs to be a smoke-free zone. Ask any family members or roommates who smoke to either quit or smoke outside at all times.
Mildew, mold, and bacteria grow in damp conditions and can aggravate COPD. Standing water encourages their growth. Keep your bathroom and kitchen well ventilated, and fix any leaking or dripping taps.
Keep all condensation and moisture out of your home. This includes humid air, rain, and groundwater. Install a dehumidifier if necessary. Remember to clean the dehumidifier regularly to avoid a buildup of mildew, mold, and bacteria.
Make sure any gas appliances, water heaters, or dryers in your home are connected to a vent to the outdoors. Use exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen, and install a carbon monoxide detector near where you sleep. Have any new gas appliances installed by a recognized, qualified service provider. All gas appliances should also be checked once per year by a qualified technician.
Radon is a naturally occurring invisible gas that causes lung cancer. It’s produced by the decay of uranium, which may be found in soil, rock, or water around your home. Use a home test to check for radon or hire a professional to check for it. Radon levels in your home can be lowered. While excessive radon exposure has not been shown to increase “flare-ups” of COPD, it has been associated in some studies to increase the risk of death in patients with COPD.
Chemicals in household products, such as cleaning supplies, aerosols, grooming products, paint, pesticides, and air fresheners, can be irritants. Choose products that have low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), by checking their labels thoroughly. When using household products, keep the area well ventilated by opening doors and windows.
Better still, try natural cleaning remedies. Baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar can all be used to clean and disinfect safely and effectively. Avoid using scented air fresheners and candles. If odors are a problem, locate the source and then clean up and ventilate the area.
Particles of fur and skin from pets can cause allergic symptoms. This is true of most pets with the possible exception of fish. The most effective solution is to keep animals out of your home. If you have pets, you can cut down on the levels of animal dust in your home by vacuuming carpets regularly and keeping pets out of your bedroom. Consider hard-surfaced flooring as a replacement for carpets.
Dust Mites and Other House Pests
Dust mites are found in all homes and are largely unavoidable. They breed rapidly in moist, warm conditions, and bedding provides the perfect breeding ground. Wash bedding often and at a high temperature. Consider using mattress and pillow protectors to keep them out.
Use baited traps to control other household pests such as cockroaches, which can irritate COPD. Prevent them from invading your home by covering trash and regularly cleaning areas where you prepare food.
Making Life Easier
Staying well and avoiding a chest infection is essential if you have COPD. The Cleveland Clinic recommends taking steps to conserve your energy. 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.
Ask your healthcare provider about modifications that can be made to your home to help you get around more easily. Try to keep active in small bursts whenever possible. Climbing the stairs, for example, is an easy form of exercise. Keep a bag at the top and bottom of the stairs to help you carry items and save you extra trips up and down the steps.
Place chairs strategically around your home so that you can sit and conserve energy during activities such as preparing food, grooming, bathing, and brushing your teeth.
Make your bedroom a place for resting. Develop a bedtime routine that encourages relaxation and restful sleep. To keep warm, choose a single quilt, rather than a variety of sheets and blankets. Install a bedside table with a light, and use it to store your inhaler, cell phone, and important phone numbers.
Ask visitors to avoid coming to your home if they have a cold, the flu, or any virus or infection that could weaken your health. If visitors want to smoke, make sure they do so outside your home, away from areas of ventilation.
Be prepared for an emergency. Keep inhalers, cell phones, important phone numbers, and lists of medications you’re taking close at hand, so you can quickly call for help if needed.
A diagnosis of COPD may mean you have to spend more time at home. You can better manage your COPD by making your home a place where you can feel relaxed, happy, and comfortable. A supply of humorous or light-hearted books, magazines, and DVDs may help keep your spirits up and free your mind from worry and anxiety. Listening to uplifting music can also help improve your mood. Keep your mind active by doing puzzles or reading up on a subject you’ve always wanted to learn more about. Choose any activity that interests and engages you.
Carefully managing your condition can help you control your symptoms, lower your risk of complications, and improve your quality of life. Creating a safe and comfortable home is an important part of that.
Take steps to improve the air quality in your home. For example, eliminate smoke, moisture, irritating chemicals, pet hair and dander, and household pests. You should also create a home that allows you to conserve your energy and rest in comfort. A little planning and some small adjustments can have a positive effect on your health.