Having a chronic disease like COPD means being prepared for that inevitable flare-up. This requires having easy access to all the tools needed to help you breathe better. Here are six things to keep handy at all times.
1. Controller Medicines. These are all the medications meant to keep you breathing well. They usually include a combination of inhalers and nebulizer medications. They should be kept in a location that is easy for you to access, such as your medicine cabinet, or even your bedside or kitchen table. You must make sure you take these every day exactly as prescribed. Not only are these meant to prevent flare-ups, they may also make inevitable flare-ups less severe and easier to control.
2. Oxygen equipment. If you have oxygen at home, and you wear it all the time, you probably don’t have to worry here. However, many who have home oxygen only wear it at night, or in times of trouble. This equipment needs to be in a very convenient location so you can get to it even when you feel like you can’t catch your breath. Depending on the cause of your flare-up, many times oxygen alone can help you feel better.
3 Rescue medications. These are the medicines – like Albuterol and Xopenex – meant to help you catch your breath. Inhalers can easily fit in your purse or pocket, but they are also easy to lose. Make sure you have a spare nearby. If you take breathing treatments, you’ll need easy access to both the nebulizer, the air compressor, and the medicine to go with it.
4 Emergency phone numbers. These include the numbers to anyone who can help you decide what to do, or who can drive you to your doctor or to the hospital. Numbers to include are your doctor, hospital, and caregiver. This list will also tell emergency professionals who to call in the case of an emergency.
5. Directions. So your doctor wants to see you at the office. When you can’t breathe, sometimes it’s hard to remember how to get places. Don’t just assume your caregivers know where to go. Have addresses, and directions, easily available. Directions to the nearest hospital should also be included.
6 COPD action plan. This is a plan to help you decide what action to take in the event a flare-up does occur. Should you use your oxygen? Should you use your rescue medicine? Should you call your caregiver, your doctor, or 911? It should also include emergency phone numbers and directions. An ideal place for this plan is on your refrigerator or on top of a table nearby where you spend most of your time. You should also keep a copy in your wallet or purse. This way anyone who cares for you has easy access to it.
Be prepared. It’s normal to have trouble moving around, or to have trouble deciding what to do, when you’re having trouble breathing. This is why it’s so important to plan ahead and have readily available all the tools you or anyone else needs to help you breathe better.
A Registered Respiratory Therapist and asthmatic