COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. "Progressive" means the disease gets worse over time.
COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of phlegm, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and other symptoms.
Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD. Most people who have COPD smoke or used to smoke. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants — such as air pollution, chemical fumes or dust — also may contribute to COPD.
November is COPD Awareness Month. On Nov. 21, the Great American Smokeout will be held. This is an annual intervention event, held by the American Cancer Society, on the third Thursday in November.
Here are some tips for patients dealing with COPD:
— When you are having trouble breathing, try pursed lip breathing, count 1, 2, 3, to inhale and count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, when you exhale, with your lips pursed — like you are blowing out candles — the entire time.
— If your medication has a corticosteroid as one of the active ingredients, be sure to rinse your mouth out with water after taking your medication, to prevent thrush.
— Preventative lung health starts with a visit to a pulmonologist at least once per year.
— If you use an inhaler, ask your doctor about a spacer. This device will allow the medication to be more effective and it also takes less coordination if you have trouble timing the inhalation with the dispensing of the medication.
— Remember to wash your hands regularly; shopping carts, door knobs and light switches can harbor germs, and you have an increased risk of getting sick.
Exercise is a key part of staying healthy with COPD. Benefits of exercise:
— Stretching everyday will keep your muscles and joints healthy.
— Resistance training will support your muscles and bones to keep them strong.
— When you can’t get outside, walk around your home for some exercise.
— Perform 10-15 minutes of exercise, 3-5 times a day, until you are able to complete 30-40 minutes in one session.
— Exercising daily will increase brain chemicals that will leave you feeling more relaxed and happy.
In August, another resource became available for those who are dealing with COPD. Beebe Healthcare and Sussex County EMS Paramedics have entered into a partnership to improve quality of life and lower hospital readmissions for patients with COPD.
The Mobile Integrated Healthcare COPD Pilot Program, the first in Delaware, allows Respiratory Therapists and members of the Population Health department at Beebe Healthcare to identify patients at risk for COPD readmission. Once they opt to enroll in the program, participants will receive non-emergent home visits which will include physical assessments, medication reconciliation, confirmation of appropriate follow-up visits, home safety assessments, medication and equipment education as well as social service support.
The partnership will provide patients with COPD more tools and education that will reduce the risk of another emergency department visit or hospital stay.
In 2013, Beebe Healthcare Pulmonary Rehabilitation program was started by myself and Kelly Thompson, another pulmonary rehab specialist. Since then, the program has doubled in size. The rehab program works hand and hand with the nutrition and pharmacy departments to assist with educational needs in their area of expertise. Victor Banzon, a board-certified pulmonologist, is the medical director of the pulmonary rehab program. He oversees all of the patients that attend the pulmonary rehab program.
The pulmonary rehab is a program designed to strengthen your lung function and increase your endurance. During the program patients are given education on a variety of topics from lung health to proper nutrition. A referral from any physician can be made; patients must meet specific requirements to be eligible for the rehabilitation program.
The program averages 12 weeks, twice per week. Patients will work directly with the dedicated pulmonary rehabilitation staff to create an ideal plan to optimize the time spent in the program. Patients are monitored by highly trained medical professionals who use their knowledge and experience to help guide patients to a more independent life style. Patients are encouraged to attend a monthly support group called “The Better Breathers.” For details on this support group, call 645-3298.
For more, call the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department at 645-3579.