The goals of COPD treatment are not only to prolong life but also to help maintain independence and alleviate discomfort. Achieving these goals requires a combination of lifestyle modifications, medications, mucus clearance devices, vaccinations, oxygen therapy, and, sometimes, surgical procedures.
COPD and Lifestyle Modifications
The two interventions associated with improved survival in people with COPD are smoking cessation and supplemental oxygen. Even people with advanced COPD can increase their life expectancy if they stop smoking.
It is also important to avoid exposure to other airborne toxins (including secondhand cigarette smoke), to exercise as much as possible, and to follow an adequate diet.
If it is tiring to eat, it may help to consume several small meals a day rather than a few large ones. Adding a liquid protein supplement to your daily diet can improve overall nutrition and help prevent weight loss. It is also essential to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. If you have COPD, you should not push yourself when you get tired, and you should avoid exerting yourself when it is too hot, too cold, or humid or when air quality is poor.
Even routine tasks can be exhausting when you have severe COPD. Activities such as bathing, grooming and dressing often require a great deal of effort, but careful planning can help conserve your energy and make it easier and quicker to get through these tasks. Plan to bathe, groom, and dress at times when you're feeling most energetic. Also, gather all the supplies you will need before you start.
When bathing, instead of standing in the shower, use a bath stool or take baths. Because excess humidity can make it tougher to breathe, use warm water rather than hot, leave the bathroom door open, turn on exhaust fans, and open a window whenever possible.
Use a long-handled brush or sponge to avoid stretching to wash your back and feet. If you need to use continuous oxygen therapy, you can continue to use it in the tub or shower—just drape the tube over the shower rod or side of the tub. (It is safe to remove the nasal cannula briefly while washing your face.) Instead of using a towel to dry off, try wearing a long terrycloth robe. Or try blotting rather than rubbing with the towel to dry yourself; it takes less effort.
To make grooming easier, choose a simple hairstyle that doesn't require extensive blow-drying or styling. Conserve energy by sitting in front of a low mirror when shaving or applying makeup, rather than standing bent over the bathroom sink. Avoid aerosolized or heavily scented products, which may irritate your lungs. Most deodorants are available in roll-on or solid formulations, and many are also fragrance free. Perfumes and colognes can make it more difficult to breathe, so avoid using these products.
To simplify the daily dressing routine, store clothes (especially those you wear often) in places that don't require bending or reaching. Avoid tight-fitting clothing that can make breathing difficult. For example, men can wear suspenders instead of belts, and women can wear camisoles or sports bras instead of regular bras. Do not wear socks or stockings with elastic bands, since they can restrict circulation. (Support hosiery recommended by your doctor is the exception.)
Slip-on shoes mean you do not have to bend over to tie shoelaces. A long shoehorn (12 to 18 inches) can make it easier to put on shoes, too. To conserve energy, stay seated as long as possible while dressing, and dress your lower half first, as it is usually more difficult. Putting your underwear inside your pants and pulling both on together may be helpful as well.