Living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be challenging. You might cough a lot and deal with chest tightness. And sometimes, the simplest activities can leave you feeling breathless.
Symptoms of this chronic disease may worsen with age. Currently, there’s no cure for COPD, but treatment can help you manage the condition successfully.
If you’re living with COPD and the medication you’re on is successfully managing your symptoms, you may be wondering what sort of lifestyle changes you should also make to help you stay well.
Some people find that practicing gentle breathing exercises gives them more control over their breath. It can also help to strengthen your respiratory muscles and breathe easier.
But tips for managing COPD don’t stop there. Making changes around your home can also create a more comfortable, breathable space.
Here are a few hacks for a COPD-friendly home.
Something as simple as showering can leave you breathless and exhausted. It takes a lot of energy to stand, bathe, and hold your arms above your head when washing your hair.
Using a shower chair can prevent you from exacerbating your condition. Sitting down alleviates frequent bending. And when you’re able to conserve energy, there’s a lower risk of injury from a fall or slip.
Steam from a shower increases the humidity level in the bathroom. This can also exacerbate COPD, triggering coughing and shortness of breath.
To avoid worsening symptoms, only shower in well-ventilated bathrooms. If possible, shower with the door open, crack a bathroom window or use an exhaust fan.
If these aren’t an option, place a portable fan in the bathroom while showering to reduce humidity and ventilate the room.
Many cases of COPD are due to smoking, whether first or secondhand. Even if you’ve given it up, exposure to cigarette smoke can cause a flare or worsen your symptoms.
To keep your respiratory system healthy, you should avoid smoking cigarettes and keep your home smoke-free.
Be mindful of thirdhand smoke, too. This refers to residual smoke left behind after a person smokes. So even if someone doesn’t smoke around you, the scent of smoke on their clothes can make your symptoms worse.
Carpet can trap many pollutants like pet dander, dust, and other allergens. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, removing your carpet and replacing it with hardwood floors or tile may help improve your symptoms.
If you’re unable to remove your carpet, get a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and vacuum your floors often. Every six to 12 months, get your carpets, fabric furniture, and curtains steam cleaned.
An air purifier can remove allergens and other pollutants and irritants from the air. For top-notch filtration, choose an air purifier with a HEPA filter.
Some chemicals used to dust, mop, or disinfect your home could potentially irritate your symptom and trigger breathlessness.
Make a concerted effort to avoid harsh chemicals altogether. This includes chemicals used to clean your home and personal hygiene products. Also, be careful with air fresheners, plug-ins, and scented candles.
Look for natural or non-toxic items that are free of perfumes. As far as cleaning goes, consider making your own natural household cleaners. There are plenty of options you can produce using vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, and water.
Eliminating clutter reduces dust accumulation so you can breathe easier.
The less clutter in your home, the better. Clutter is a breeding ground for dust. In addition to vacuuming and mopping your floors, declutter shelves, desks, tables, corners, and bookcases.
This is an aspect of home maintenance you might neglect, but it’s important if you have COPD.
Mold and mildew in your home can go undetected and unknowingly make your condition worse. Each year, schedule an air conditioning inspection for mold, and have your ductwork inspected for mildew.
Eliminating mold and mildew around your home can lead to cleaner air and a more breathable environment.
If you live in a multi-story home, consider moving to a one-level home, if possible.
Leaving your home might be difficult, especially if this is where you raised your family and created years of memories. But if you have moderate-to-severe COPD with worsening symptoms, climbing stairs daily can lead to frequent bouts of breathlessness.
If you’re unable to move to a one-level home, you can convert a downstairs room into a bedroom, or install a stair lift.
If you need oxygen therapy, talk to your doctor about getting a portable tank. These are lightweight and compact, and because they’re designed to be portable, you can take them from room to room without tripping over a cord.
Using a portable oxygen tank also makes it easier to travel outside the house, giving you independence and improving your quality of life.
Remember, oxygen feeds fire. Make sure you know how to use it safely. Keep a fire extinguisher in your home as a precaution.
Living with COPD has its challenges, but making a few basic adjustments can create a home that’s better suited to this disease. Having a space that’s comfortable and breathable may reduce your number of flares, allowing you to enjoy life to the fullest.