If you have COPD or you’re caring for someone who does, it’s important to understand that the quality of the air in your home can aggravate COPD symptoms. According to the American Lung Association (ALA), 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 the condition can lead to a lung infection that may cause further lung damage.
Improving Air Quality
Although it may not be possible to avoid an infection completely, following these tips can help you prevent the risk of infection and manage COPD at home.
If you haven’t already, quit smoking. Smoking is the main cause of COPD and cigarette smoke a serious irritant. Ask your doctor for advice about quitting. This goes for anyone you live with who smokes, as second-hand smoke provides a serious health risk. Your home needs to be a smoke-free zone. Ask any family members who smoke to quit or to 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. Install a carbon monoxide detector near where you sleep and have any new gas appliances installed by a recognized, qualified service provider. All gas appliances should be checked once per year by a qualified technician.
Radon is a naturally occurring invisible gas that causes lung cancer. Use a home test to check for radon or consult a professional. Radon levels in your home can be treated.
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 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, then clean up and ventilate the area.
Particles of fur and skin from pets can cause allergies. This is true of most pets, perhaps with the exception of fish. The most effective solution is to keep animals out of the 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 the 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 and consider using mattress and pillow protectors to keep them out. Use baited traps to control other household pests like cockroaches, that 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 using less energy during daily tasks and developing strategies to make getting around at home easier, so that you have the energy to do more activities throughout the day.
Ask your health care provider about modifications that can be made ?to your home to help you get around easier. 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 stairs.
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.
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.
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 to keep your inhaler, cell phone, and important numbers close.
A diagnosis of COPD may mean you have to spend more time at home. Manage your COPD better 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 can help to 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 read up on a subject you’ve always wanted to learn more about. Choose any activity that interests and engages you.