12 Ways to Manage Symptoms at Home
- Shortness of breath. A feeling of shortness of breath may be experienced during activity or when lying down. Elevating the head with several pillows; using oxygen as ordered; and using a fan to circulate air can reduce shortness of breath. There are also medications that can help reduce shortness of breath.
- Coughing/wheezing/bringing up mucus. Simple devices and some medications may help break up mucus in the lungs, making it easier to cough up thick mucus. Ask your physician for recommendations. If you have difficulty bringing up mucus, talk to your physician.
- Frequent respiratory infections. Get plenty of rest so your body is strong enough to fight off the germs that cause infections. Keep your lungs as clear of mucus as you can. Drink lots of clear fluids (infections grow easily in mucus). Try to avoid people with colds if possible and eat a variety of healthy foods to keep your body happy and healthier.
- Anxiety and restlessness. Anxiety and restlessness, associated with lung disease, can significantly add to your level of distress. You may already be taking medications that help with anxiety or restlessness and these medications can be adjusted to meet the needs of your changing symptoms.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke, seek help to quit (e.g., talk to your doctor, Nurse, etc). Ask your family and friends to support you by not smoking in your home or anywhere around you.
- Avoid “troublemakers.” Air pollution and weather. Try to avoid dust and fumes and stay indoors on extremely hot/cold or high pollution days. Check daily air quality levels and air pollution forecasts in your area (e.g., local radio and TV weather reports, newspapers, and/or online at www.epa.gov/airnow/). Learn more about how the weather, air, and infections affect COPD.
- Vaccines. Vaccines would help to avoid the flu and pneumonia. You may want to get a flu shot annually. Usually people only need one pneumonia shot, but check with your physician.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eating a variety of healthy foods daily will help maintain your ideal body weight and will help you to breathe easier.
- Set realistic goals and plans. Instead of walking around the block, walk to the mailbox. Plan periods of rest throughout the day.
- Ask questions. It is important for you and your family to understand your condition. Never be afraid to ask questions about the things you do not understand or are concerned about.
- Help your medicines help you. There are several medications that may help you control and live with lung disease.
- Decrease your salt intake. Excess sodium (salt) causes fluid to build up in the body; therefore, decreasing the body’s ability to absorb medication. This buildup of fluid may cause your feet, ankles, legs, and abdomen to swell. You may also start coughing or find it hard to breathe. Be careful because there are other terms for salt such as sodium chloride, monosodium glutamate, cured, corned, and pickled. Beware of food that contains more than 350mg of sodium per serving.
Remember, you are not alone. Dealing with an illness is never easy. Heart ‘n Home is available to provide physical, emotional, and spiritual support during this very difficult time. Because your family and friends are affected by your illness, it is important to share your thoughts and feelings with them and ask for help when you need it. Sometimes just talking about your feelings with people who care about you can be beneficial.
Living with lung disease may mean dealing with a lot of different emotions. It is normal to have occasional feelings of frustration, sadness, fear, depression, anxiety, and even anger. By opening up about your fears, those fears do not hold as much power over you. This will also give you a feeling of control and reduce anxiety.
Many options are available to you, such as counseling and possibly medication, if needed, to help you better deal with these issues.