If you suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you know that flareups can make breathing more difficult and prevent you from doing the things you enjoy. Frequent flareups also can make your COPD progress faster. Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do to minimize flareups and breathe easier.
Quit smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Even exposure to secondhand smoke can irritate your lungs and cause a flareup. Talk with your doctor to get the support you need to stop smoking, and avoid environments where others are smoking.
Steer clear of germs. Many flareups are linked to infection, says the COPD Foundation. Reduce your chances of getting sick by washing your hands frequently and keeping them away from your face. (Use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands.) Avoid large crowds during cold and flu season, and keep up on your scheduled flu, pneumonia and pertussis vaccines.
Exercise. It might feel difficult, but regular exercise can strengthen your breathing muscles and improve your endurance. Try something moderate, such as walking.
Eat a healthy diet. Eating the right foods can keep your body strong and help you maintain a healthy weight, making breathing easier. Talk with your doctor or a registered dietician about forming a diet plan that meets your nutritional needs.
Keep your airways clear. Mucus-filled air passages can make it more difficult to breathe. Reduce mucus buildup by using a humidifier and drinking plenty of water, which can thin mucus and make it less likely to get stuck.
Avoid lung irritants. Air pollution, chemical fumes and dust can aggravate your lungs and cause a flareup. On days when the air quality is poor, try to stay indoors with the windows closed. If your home needs to be painted or sprayed for insects, find another place to stay while the work takes place.
Stick to your doctor’s plan. Even if your breathing feels OK, see your doctor regularly so he or she can monitor your lung function. And always be vigilant about taking your prescription medications, which work to help you breathe better and keep flareups at bay, says the American Lung Association.