If you're healthy and free of chronic disease, the holidays can be stressful enough. But, if you have COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, an umbrella term for emphysema and chronic bronchitis), you might be looking at the holidays with downright fear and trepidation and be inclined to say, "It's such a hassle. I'm tempted to forget the whole thing and just stay home."
Well, I'm here to tell you, it doesn't have to be that way! Here are 10 tips to help you enjoy the holidays, even if you have COPD. This is, by no means, a complete list - it's just a start to let you know that with a little planning and some clever thinking - you can get out, participate in holiday events and enjoy the time spent with family and friends.
1. Scented candles - If you're going to a party or gathering where you expect there might be scented candles, call ahead and gently ask your host if they would mind not lighting them when you're there. Explain that the scent irritates your lungs and you won't be able to appreciate the party if the candles take over your ability to breathe.
2. Park close or get dropped off - Don't find yourself in a position in which you have to walk farther than you're comfortably able to walk, especially in the cold air. If you're riding with somebody, ask if they can drop you off at the door. If you're the one driving, call ahead and ask if you can drive right up to the door and someone at the party (perhaps a responsible teen driver) can serve as a valet.
3. Don't eat too much - All those goodies are tempting, but overeating can expand your stomach to the point that it will push up on your already compromised diaphragm. Want to try everything? You can. Just take little bits and bites.
4. Give yourself time - Rushing around and hurrying is a huge problem for people with breathing difficulties who simply can't move fast. Allow for plenty of time to get ready so you'll arrive when you want, look beautiful / handsome (whatever the case may be) and have breath to spare!
5. Avoid nasty germs - Stay away from small children who are coughing and sneezing. They can shake off a cold virus. You can't! And at their young age they don't know enough to cover their mouth and nose. As uppity as it may sound, avoid shaking hands and kisses on the lips. The Hollywood "air kiss" works just fine! When you've weathered the winter without an exacerbation, you'll be happy you did...or didn't!
6. Cover up - Wear a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth in cold air to keep your lungs from going into spasm, causing an uncontrollable cough and more shortness of breath.
7. Delegate - You don't have to do all the work! Involve your guests and assign tasks. Children, and yes, even teens, are usually very willing to help - and be shown some appreciation for doing so. It will enrich their lives to learn a little bit about your physical limitation and it will make them feel proud to know they've helped out.
8. Be a Santa - Surprise somebody by doing something nice. Send a note to your neighbor or phone a friend with a brief and cheerful "I'm just thinking about you and wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas" greeting. Make cookies or banana bread for your letter carrier. Don't underestimate the power of a small, but kind, deed. Little things mean a lot!