A: Many of us take for granted the ability to breathe easily. For thousands who suffer from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also known as emphysema and chronic bronchitis), every breath can be a challenge. While COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., it is often treatable through medication, pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy and changes in lifestyle.
October is Healthy Lung Month. If you or a loved one suffers from COPD, there are things you can do to minimize symptoms. Avoid exposure to air pollution, fumes, pollens, mold, smoke, scented products and sudden changes in the weather. Don’t smoke, and stay away from second-hand smoke. With a doctor’s recommendation, get a flu shot and pneumonia vaccination. Take any prescribed medications or home oxygen as recommended by the doctor. Call the doctor if normal activities result in increased shortness of breath, if there is increased phlegm or more coughing than usual. Increased need for relief medications, decreased appetite and increased fatigue also indicate the need to seek extra help. Frequent trips to the hospital, shortness of breath while at rest and a dependency on supplemental oxygen can indicate the disease has progressed. When that happens, it may be time to consider the focus on pain and symptom management that hospice care can provide.
Information from the American Lung Association and Dallas County Hospital, provided by Abi Albrecht, LMSW, team director, HCI Hospice Care Services of Central Iowa, 402 12th St., Perry, (515) 465-4705, www.hcicareservices.org.