Staying Healthy with COPD | COPD Foundation

Dear COPD Coach,
Having lived with COPD for some time, I do my best to avoid colds and other infections that can aggravate my COPD. Do you have any suggestions for me?

–Staying Healthy

Dear Staying Healthy,
Because COPD often affects our immune system, as well as our ability to recover from common illnesses, you are very right to be vigilant. Avoiding sick people is certainly a good start! However that is certainly not all you can do to remain healthy. Here are some tips to safeguard your health and avoid exacerbations (times when your symptoms become worse):

  • Washing your hands regularly is considered to be a good first line defense! Germs are often transmitted through things we touch. Something as simple as a shopping cart handle, or even a doorknob, can harbor germs. These germs are then entered into our respiratory tract when we touch our face. Washing your hands regularly will reduce the likelihood of catching an illness.
  • As you mentioned, avoid people who are sick. Consider wearing a surgical masks when you are around large groups of people during peak cold and flu seasons. Learn to spot the signs of an exacerbation. Key signs include: difficulty breathing for a longer period of time, a change in the color of mucus (please keep in mind, early morning mucus tends to be darker than later in the day and is normal), increased congestion, or more coughing than normal. If any of these signs are present, contact your doctor.
  • Diet is very important in COPD management. Because a person with COPD uses a large amount of calories just to breathe, it is important that you get enough “healthy” calories each day to offset this deficit. You should be eating balanced meals. Your meals should also be smaller and more frequent throughout the day. Large meals can actually cause breathlessness (if you use oxygen, wear it while you eat) and digesting large meals actually consumes a large amount of calories that you need to breathe.
  • Get into a regular exercise routine. The best tool here is respiratory therapy but if you don’t qualify or cannot afford it, you can always exercise on your own. Speak with your doctor or a respiratory therapist about an exercise routine that is safe, comfortable and effective for you.
  • If you smoke, quit. Avoid secondhand smoke, strong chemical odors including perfumes and strong cleaning solutions dust and pollution. All can worsen your breathing!

Take your medications as directed. If a certain medication does not seem to offer you the relief you expect, talk with your doctor. Medication for COPD is not always a “one size fits all” proposition and there might well be a medication that will work better for you.

-The COPD Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice. If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at [email protected] We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.


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