Halloween has passed and we are coming up quickly on the holiday season. This can be a taxing time of year for all of us but it can be especially tough on those battling a respiratory condition. We want you to be able to stay healthy and make holiday memories with your family and friends. We put together this guide for COPD patients as well as those hosting respiratory patients over the holiday season to help out!
Take Care of Yourself
This should be always first and foremost in your mind at any time of year. Burning the candle at both ends is common this time of year but self-care is important. Try to go for quality over quantity when it comes to activities and don't run yourself ragged. The risk to your health just isn't worth it.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Stick to your medical regimen. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to, or make it apart of your routine (i.e. taking medications before bed or when you wake up each day) but don't forget to take your prescriptions. Also be aware that many pharmacies and doctor's offices have reduced hours during this time of year, so make sure you have plenty of medication to get you by.
- Make time to do your breathing exercises.
- It’s okay to treat yourself while celebrating but keep try to keep it in check. Healthy body weight is essential for easy breathing. Make an effort to fill 50% of your plate with fruits and vegetables and you can fill the other 50% with things you might not normally eat. An overly full belly makes your diaphragm work much harder to breathe so don't overeat. Eat slowly and most importantly, enjoy!
- Raise a glass! You heard us, you can enjoy a glass of your favorite drink here and there but again, moderation is key. Your body fights off infection with things called antioxidants. One of the main antioxidants found in the lungs is called Glutathione. Decreases in this antioxidant can cause flare ups and infections. Drinking alcohol decrease’s glutathione levels and chronic alcohol consumption is credited with decreased lung function in lung patients.
- Stay hydrated. Your lungs are about 83% water so any dehydration is going to hit the respiratory system first. Especially when your activity level is way up, you need water! You might want to add in a sports drink here and there to replace electrolytes as well.
- You’re bound to be in crowded places so eat plenty of foods rich in antioxidants and vitamin C to boost your immune system. Wash your hands often and take along a small bottle of hand sanitizer wherever you go. Use It after you’ve used the bathroom, touched doorknobs and handrails, and before you eat.
- If you’re planning on taking a respiratory patient out for a day of holiday shopping, realize that their endurance may not match yours. Make sure there’s a coffee shop, food court, or nice sitting area where they can sit and rest if they get tired.
- Schedule some down-time in the middle of the day for rest. Schedule some fun in the morning, have a lunch and then a couple hours where the patient can lie down or just sit and relax a little bit.
- If you plan to take a respiratory patient somewhere that parking can be challenging, plan to drop the person off or pay for valet. Walking, especially out in the cold and wind can be extremely taxing and may bring on an exacerbation. If the patient has a handicap placard, be sure to bring it along so that you can utilize handicap parking.
Plan for the Weather
- If weather is an exacerbation trigger for you, take precautions.
- Take a scarf or something to cover your face if it’s going to be cold.
- If you’re going somewhere hot and humid drink plenty of water. During the hottest parts of the day, plan to be inside where there is air conditioning.
Plan Ahead for Travel
In the best case scenarios travel can be stressful, especially at holiday times. Use these suggestions to make it as stress free as possible.
- Try to travel a few days ahead of the peak travel days.
- If you’re traveling with oxygen, keep in mind that most airlines require that you have at least 150% more battery life than your flight time. Plan on a little extra battery life to account for delays delays. Charge up at an outlet in the airport, or whenever when you get a chance. During busy airport times outlets may be in short supply. If you need to charge your unit and all outlets are filled, don't be afraid to speak to guest services or ask an airline employee for assistance.
- Give yourself plenty of time. Lines at baggage check and TSA are bound to be long so arrive early so you don’t have to get winded rushing to your gate.
- Know what your airline and local airport TSA requires as far as paperwork for oxygen devices. Download our Free Travel Guide. It has the phone numbers and website links for oxygen info for all the major airlines so you have all you need to know about traveling with oxygen and there are no surprises when you get to the airport, bus station, rail depot, or cruise ship.
- Make an appointment with your doctor or respiratory therapist to ask about any adjustments you may have to make for altitude, temperature, or humidity changes. Some airlines and cruiselines also require that you have a letter clearing you for travel from your doctor so you can get that at this time if needed.
- Carry a copy of your prescription. Find an oxygen source at your destination and keep that number with you in case of emergency.
Scents and Sensitivities
Some of the most festive things about this time of year are unfortunately some of the biggest exacerbation risks. The good news is that by taking small precautions you should still be able to enjoy them for the most part.
- Real Christmas trees can cause breathing problems if they contain pollen or spores. Fake trees are much safer if they are stored in a dry environment and covered to prevent dust accumulation. Real trees are beautiful, and if your traditional is to have a real one, rinse the tree off and leave it outside to dry before setting it up in the house. This will eliminate the pollen and mold spores.
- Have someone dust off the ornaments before the oxygen patient comes in touch with it. Dust allergies can easily trigger a symptom flare-up.
- Scented candles are beautiful but please keep in mind strong scents can cause an exacerbation. Also, if you or your guest is on an oxygen tank or concentrator, open flames are an absolute, no. It could be deadly for everyone involved. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, oxygen patients will have to pass on.
- Keep in mind for cooking holiday meals to make sure the exhaust fan is in good working order and crack a window open if it starts to get smoky in your home. Again, if cooking involves open flames, oxygen patients should be out and away from the kitchen.
- When guests are coming it’s natural to want to make your home spotless but bleach and other harsh cleansers are dangerous for respiratory patients. Recent studies have shown that excessive and regular bleach use can be a risk factor for COPD. Consider using vinegar, baking soda, and other less toxic cleaners.
We hope you’re having a great start to the holiday season and these tips help make it as stress free as possible!