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Breathing Better with COPD

Managing symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) includes making sure you’re breathing as well as you can. To help reduce shortness of breath, you can begin by avoiding lung irritants and paying attention to weather conditions. Some of the following suggestions may also help you breathe better.

Breathing Activities

The following types of breathing can help decrease the work of inhaling and exhaling and can help you when you are feeling short of breath. Practice these techniques until they come naturally.

Pursed-Lip Breathing – This type of breathing helps you exhale better, allowing you to inhale more oxygen-rich air.

  • Inhale – Relax your shoulder and neck muscles and inhale slowly through your nose for two counts.
  • Exhale – Pucker your lips like you are about to blow out a candle. Exhale slowly and gently through your lips for four or more counts.

Diaphragmatic Breathing – This type of breathing helps the diaphragm (the muscle beneath your lungs) move, and can increase the amount of air you can breathe into your lungs.

  • Inhale – Sit or lie on your back so you are relaxed. Inhale slowly through your nose and count to two. Your stomach muscles should relax.
  • Exhale – Breathe out through pursed lips and count to four. You should feel your stomach muscles tighten and move in.

Blowing bubbles can not only be a relaxing activity but can help you master slowing down your breathing as well. Even learning a new instrument like the harmonica can help strengthen the breathing muscles. Ask your doctor or respiratory therapist about other breathing activities and relaxation techniques you can use when you are short of breath.

Avoiding Irritants

Try to stay away from things that may make breathing harder for you, such as:

  • Cigarette smoke – If you smoke, quit now. Do not allow people to smoke around you or in your home, and sit in non-smoking sections of public areas.
  • Smoke – Always keep the flue open when gas or wood fireplaces are in use.
  • Sprays and scents – Buy unscented body and hair products, and don’t allow anyone to spray any scented items in your bathroom or other rooms of your home.
  • Vapors – Limit contact with cleaning solutions, such as ammonia, bleach or other disinfectants, and be careful with paint, varnishes or hobby products.
  • Pet hair or fur – If you are allergic to pet dander, don’t allow pets in your home and avoid spending a lot of time in a home that has pets.

Watch the Weather

Weather and air quality reports can help you plan ahead. Hot and humid days, or cold days, can make breathing difficult. High rates of air pollution or pollen can also cause breathing problems. When it is cold outside, it is helpful to wear a scarf or mask, and breathe through it to protect yourself from breathing in the cold air.