Conquer COPD this holiday season with these 4 easy tips

Conquer COPD this holiday season with these 4 easy tips

November is National COPD Awareness Month.

Did you know that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States? According to the American Lung Association, more than 11 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, but millions more are unaware that they have the disease.

COPD is a disease that makes it hard to breathe and gets worse over time. COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants—such as air pollution, chemical fumes, or dust—also may contribute to COPD.

COPD is not only life-threatening, but also is a long-term disability requiring those living with the disease to make many lifestyle changes. There’s no cure for COPD, so it’s important that those who have the condition live a healthy and active lifestyle while enjoying every moment, especially during the holidays.

The American Lung Association offers the following tips to help individuals with COPD enjoy the holidays:

  • Plan ahead. During the holidays, we all rush to find the perfect gift, speed to a get-together or run to get a second helping of mom’s turkey. Rushing can be extremely exhausting for those with COPD, causing them to become short of breath and run out of energy rather quickly. By planning ahead, you can give yourself enough time to complete all of your tasks and get to places on time without rushing.
  • Don’t overeat. There will be plenty of cookies, cakes, and pies throughout the holidays to enjoy, but it’s important that those with COPD don’t overindulge. When you overeat, your stomach starts to expand and pushes on your diaphragm, which can cause difficulty breathing and discomfort. Try eating smaller portions or sample sizes if you want to taste all your holiday favorites.
  • Avoid germs. The fall and winter months are peak time for flu season. Many COPD attacks are commonly triggered by respiratory infections, and your chances of developing one increases during flu season. If you notice anyone coughing or sneezing, try your best to stay away. Always be sure to wash your hands before and after eating, using the restroom and touching handles. Consider carrying hand sanitizer to keep your hands as clean and germ-free as possible. Also, talk with your healthcare provider about getting an annual flu shot.
  • Stay away from scents. While the smell of pumpkin spice, cinnamon, and pine in the air can make the holidays seem more cheery, candles, essential oils, and air fresheners can trigger COPD symptoms. If you’re attending a holiday party at someone’s home, politely explain your concern about the irritating scents, and ask if they could not light the candles or replace them with unscented candles.

The best way to get through the holiday season is to simply live in the present and enjoy each moment. Laugh, smile, and enjoy the days that you’re breathing well. Don’t waste time worrying about the restrictions your disease causes or concern yourself about what could happen tomorrow. Take it one day at a time, or in this case, one holiday at a time.

If you or someone you know is living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and needs help managing his or her condition, contact a primary care provider at Paris Community Hospital/Family Medical Center at (217) 463-1946.