organizing your home for caring for an elderly parent

Recently Diagnosed With A Breathing Disorder? What Are Your Next Steps?

by Faith Perkins

If you've recently been diagnosed with asthma, COPD, emphysema, or another ailment that can affect your ability to breathe, you may be relieved to finally have a valid diagnosis but still struggling to get through the motions of everyday life when simple breathing becomes too difficult. What can you do to help manage the effects of a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe? Is there anything available to help you lead a more normal life? Read on to learn more about a few of your options.

Reduce pollution and dust in surrounding air

Although you may not have much control over the level of smog in your city or the weather conditions that can aggravate breathing difficulties (like heat and humidity), there are things you can do to control the quality of the air within your home. By doing so, you'll allow your lungs and breathing passages a regular reprieve from impure air. This will reduce airway inflammation and, over time, help improve your ability to breathe as your lungs are given a chance to rest and recover.

A whole-house HEPA air filter is one of the best options to permanently improve the air quality in your home. These filters install in each of the air vents supplying air to your home and filter out the majority of airborne particles -- from pollen to dust to chemicals from car exhaust or cigarette smoke. You'll need to replace these filters periodically so they continue to function well, but you should notice an improvement in your breathing relatively quickly.

If your budget is tight but you'd still like to reduce the allergens in your home, you may be able to invest in an inexpensive portable HEPA filter that will remove dust and impurities within your immediate area. Sleeping with one of these filters next to your bed will help give your lungs a break each night and should improve your quality of sleep.

Help your body take in more oxygen

An oxygen concentrator can be a great addition to the toolkit for those with breathing problems. These concentrators have a small compressor that helps take oxygen out of the surrounding air and concentrate it in a small cannula -- similar to portable oxygen tanks, but without the risk of fire and with a potentially limitless amount of oxygen available. These concentrators can be a great accompaniment to public outings and events during which you may need some breathing assistance but don't want to cart around an oxygen tank. 

Performing mild cardio exercises can also help improve your lung capacity, but you may be reluctant to exercise to the point of being short of breath when breathing while sedentary is already difficult. An oxygen concentrator can help your exercises be more effective at improving your breathing by ensuring that you're receiving an adequate amount of oxygen at all times. If you find yourself feeling dizzy or short of breath, you'll be able to turn up the setting on the oxygen concentrator so you're breathing in air with a significantly higher proportion of oxygen than normal.

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Consider relocating (at least for a season)

There are some areas of the country that are simply not well suited for those who have breathing issues. If you live in or near a city with high smog levels, high temperatures, or a higher-than-average number of residents who commute by automobile, you may find that all your efforts to improve your breathing are rendered futile as soon as you step outside into stagnant, smoggy air. 

If finances and work availability permit, you may consider relocating to a cooler, drier part of the country with improved air quality. Once your lungs have recovered from a daily onslaught of chemical pollution, you'll likely fare better in your original location than before, giving you the flexibility to return home, to remain in your new place, or to move back and forth each year to take advantage of seasonal weather changes.