People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are less able to clear their lungs of irritants such as dust, germs, pollen and other irritants than those without the disease. These COPD symptoms make them more susceptible to contracting lower respiratory infections which can cause further damage to lung tissues.
The single most effective action people with COPD can take to slow the progress of the disease and improve their health is to stop smoking immediately. This is true no matter your age or how long you have smoked, although the earlier you quit, the more you will benefit. In order to avoid infections, it also important to take steps to avoid breathing other household and environmental irritants as much as possible. By making some changes to your lifestyle and home, you may gain significant relief from COPD symptoms and breathe easier.
What does it involve?
When you decide to quit smoking, choose a day to stop and make a plan. Make a list of reasons why you are quitting. Keep it where you can see it when you feel tempted. Spend some time thinking about when and why you smoke, your smoking triggers. Identify some coping strategies to distract or divert you when these situations occur. Make a list of 10 things you can do instead of smoking: Call a friend, eat a piece of fruit, go for a walk, play a game on your phone. Remove reminders of smoking such as ashtrays and lighters from your home.
Inform your loved ones and coworkers in advance that you are quitting, and ask them to support you. There are also quit-smoking hotlines, text services, and support groups you can use to help stay focused on your goal.
You may decide to use nicotine replacement products such as nicotine gum, patches, spray or lozenges. You can also ask your doctor for prescription medicine such as Bupropion or Varenicline to help reduce cravings and ease withdrawal. Make sure you have these on hand when you quit. As you give up nicotine, be prepared for symptoms of withdrawal, which may include headache, nausea, irritability, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue. These symptoms should ease within a few days.
Don’t get discouraged if you “fall off the wagon.” Be persistent and keep trying. Allow yourself to celebrate smoke-free milestones such as 24 hours, one week, and one month smoke-free. Treat yourself to ice cream, a trip to the movies, or another favorite non-smoking treat for each milestone.
It is also important to avoid second-hand smoke in the home and when you are out. Ask others not to smoke around you, and choose non-smoking hotel rooms and sections in restaurants. If you find that perfume, cologne, and scented soaps provoke COPD symptoms, switch to unscented products and ask loved ones to do the same.
There are many other steps you can take to reduce your exposure to irritants in addition to stopping smoking. Keep your house as clean and free from dust as possible. However, if it is possible, do not do the cleaning yourself. If you do, try to use eco-friendly cleaners or natural products like vinegar and baking soda to avoid breathing harmful chemicals. You can also wear a respirator mask to protect you from dust and fumes while you clean.
To prevent mold and mildew from growing, keep bathrooms clean and change sponges regularly. Clean your showerhead twice a year; it can harbor bacteria dangerous only to people with damaged airways. You can install ceiling fans to promote better ventilation and keep surfaces dry. Consider purchasing a humidity meter and a humidifier to keep humidity below 40 percent. In the kitchen, make sure that the fan and vents work properly, and keep windows open when cooking.
If you can choose the floor covering in your home, bare hardwood floors harbor much less dust than rugs or carpets, especially wall-to-wall carpeting. New carpets may out-gas harmful fumes for long periods after they are installed.
You may find it beneficial to purchase an air filter. If you do, a HEPA filter is safest. Other types of filters may give off ozone, a potential irritant. Clean or replace filters regularly. Cleaning the air ducts of your heating and cooling system may also reduce airborne irritants. Wood fires in the fireplace, kerosene heaters and candles also produce smoke that may compromise your health. If you must use these items, make sure the space is well-ventilated.
If you use an inhaler, nebulizer, or oxygen therapy, keep your equipment clean to help prevent infections.
Pets contribute dust and dander to the home environment. Have dogs and cats groomed twice a month, and try to keep them out of your bedroom.
There are many sources for lung irritants outside the home as well. Avoid going out during extreme weather, high pollen count days, if there is a large fire burning nearby, when pollution is especially bad (if you live in the city), or during agricultural processes that add large amounts of dust to the air (if you live in a rural area). Avoid construction sites and underground parking garages as much as possible.
By quitting smoking, you can slow the progression of COPD, improve your breathing, and help avoid infections. By avoiding lung irritants, you can help prevent flare-ups and dangerous infections that can further damage your lungs.
Studies have shown that people diagnosed with COPD live longer than those who do not stop smoking. In addition, people with COPD who quit smoking experience improved lung function, less coughing, wheezing, and phlegm.
Many people who are addicted to nicotine find it very hard to stop smoking.
If people around you smoke, it can be harder to stop smoking yourself and to avoid second-hand smoke.
You may not have control over household pollutants.
It may be difficult to keep the house clean by yourself while avoiding lung irritants.