Individuals with COPD have needed to stay particularly vigilant since the COVID-19 pandemic began, as they are likely at both a higher risk for contracting the virus and for developing more severe complications. A newly released research study published by the European Respiratory Journal reported that COPD patients were more likely to be admitted to the ICU, require ventilator care, and succumb to the virus compared to those without the disease.
Even though the CDC provides tips for all of us, including individuals with COPD to avoid getting the illness, such as frequent handwashing, social distancing, and staying home whenever possible, one advisory is particularly a challenge for someone with breathing difficulties: wearing a face covering. The American Lung Association advises that individuals diagnosed with COPD try a number of different types of coverings to discover one that’s most comfortable, and wear the mask around the house for brief periods of time to become more used to the sensation.
To best cope with COPD challenges during the pandemic, further recommendations include:
- Continue to control your COPD as recommended by the doctor, with modifications to curb your contact with others, such as telehealth appointments and mail-order prescriptions.
- Improve your body’s defense system with a healthy and nutritious diet and lots of sleep, and make certain to follow the physician’s recommended plan for treatment.
- Take good care of your emotional health to lower stress. Switch off the news and social media and participate in pleasant and gratifying activities instead. And be sure to check with a mental health professional as necessary for help with managing stress and preventing depression.
Of particular significance for anyone with COPD is the need for regular physical exercise. According to David Au, MD, professor at the University of Washington Medical School’s division of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine, because COPD causes shortness of breath, physical activity is particularly challenging. He, together with the Respiratory Health Association, suggest (with physician approval):
- Strive for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise every day, at least 3 times every week.
- Try leg lifts, marching in position, and arm circles, making use of canned goods or small weights.
- Go up and down stairs.
- Incorporate yoga breathing exercises.
These resources provide additional helpful suggestions targeted to COPD challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic:
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