If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you’ll no doubt already know how it can affect your daily living. Giving up smoking is the main cause of COPD1 and should be avoided to reduce the condition’s impact. But there are other ways to manage your symptoms:
Stay as fit as possible
According to the NHS, people with COPD who exercise or keep active on a regular basis have improved breathing, less severe symptoms and a better quality of life. Ask your GP about pulmonary rehabilitation – a structured programme of exercise provided by healthcare professionals and designed for people with long-term lung conditions such as COPD.
Some people with COPD are susceptible to losing weight because they use up so much energy breathing. Eating plenty of nutritious foods – including foods high in protein – can help boost your calorie intake, which can stop you from becoming underweight. Try having smaller, more frequent, meals and snacks if it helps, and choose soft foods that are easy to chew if you’re struggling with chewing and breathing at the same time.
Meanwhile, if you’re overweight or obese, you may find it more difficult to breathe and move around. If you have COPD and you need to lose – rather than gain – weight, speak to your GP. We have experts that can also give you plenty of advice about healthy weight loss.
Try to avoid places where there may be excessive exhaust fumes – petrol stations or underground car parks, for examples. If you find fumes from everyday household products such as cleaning products, air fresheners, perfume or hairspray irritate your lungs, avoid using them whenever possible or speak to our Pharmacist about alternatives.
Try to avoid stress, as it can make your symptoms worse. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep whenever possible too, as it may help boost your energy levels.
Control your breathing
Practising breathing techniques may help if you feel breathless. According to the NHS, when you feel short of breath, try breathing gently using the least effort. You could also try relaxed, slow, deep breathing, and breathing with pursed lips (like when you whistle).
Keep warm (or cool)
Extremes of temperature can cause problems for people with COPD, triggering symptoms such as breathlessness. During the winter, make sure you wrap up warm, both indoors and outdoors. And on hot summer days, try to stay in a cool place out of the sun whenever possible.
Get a flu jab
Make sure you have your free jab every year, as your symptoms could get much worse if you catch flu. You should also have had the anti-pneumonia jab – which you only need once – to protect against infection during the winter. Plus it’s a good idea to avoid people with colds, sore throats and other infections – if you do catch a bug, see your GP to prevent any further damage to your lungs. Flu vaccinations are available in selected LloydsPharmacy stores from September – February.
How we can support you
If you are living with COPD and would like advice on how to manage symptoms or support on how to get the most out of your medication, we have experts that can help in your local store. Just ask about the Respiratory Support Service for advice tailored to you.