Protect Your Lungs While Staying Home During COVID-19

As people spend more time inside during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important to recognize and reduce sources of pollution in your own home. Indoor air quality varies, but is often worse than outdoor air quality. However, you can improve the air quality in your home by reducing lung irritants generated indoors. Following some basic guidelines in your day-to-day routines can improve the health of those in your home who live with asthma and other lung diseases.

Cooking

gas stove can worsen indoor air quality

Gas stoves can increase indoor air pollution in your home if not properly ventilated.

People are cooking at home more often during the COVID-19 outbreak. Cooking creates moisture, which feeds mold and mildew growth – a common trigger for those living with asthma. It also exposes you to pollutants like nitrogen dioxide, particularly from gas stoves. Nitrogen dioxide is known to worsen asthma and COPD symptoms. Using a stove fan that vents to the outside can reduce pollution from cooking by 75 percent. Opening windows while cooking can also help keep the air in your home clean.

Bathing/Showering

With people home more often, your bathroom and shower may be used more. Moisture from showers can lead to mold and mildew growth, which may affect the lungs of people living with asthma. Use the bathroom fan to vent extra moisture to the outside. If you haven’t checked your fan lately, now is a good time. Remove any dust and dirt from the fan grill to keep it working properly. If your bathroom doesn’t have a fan, open a window if possible.

Cleaning

Regularly cleaning surfaces in your home is a good practice, and can also help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Taking some precautions when cleaning can help reduce the amount of indoor pollution created. If you are cleaning with chemical solutions, try to open windows vent fumes from your space. Additionally, you should never combine ammonia and chlorine bleach cleaners. This can produce a toxic gas which could be dangerous, and especially those who live with asthma. If possible, use a vacuum cleaner, which limits dust levels in the air. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends removing your shoes when you enter your home, as they can bring in additional dirt, dust and germs.

Other Daily Activities

A number of other daily activities and products can worsen indoor air quality. Nail polish, candles and paint are just a few examples of products that can affect lungs, especially those of people living with lung disease. Open windows to circulate air in your home, or use these products outside if possible to protect those in your home living with asthma.

Smoking

Anyone in your home who smokes should do so outside, as smoke and vapor from tobacco and e-cigarette products can be especially irritating to the lungs of someone living with asthma. Also, if you live in multi-unit housing, be aware that some of your neighbors may be struggling at this time and their conditions could worsen from second hand smoke. If you are thinking about quitting, there are a number of resources to help you here.

Reduced activity outside the home has generally helped improve outdoor air quality. However, if you live near pollution sources like industrial facilities or major roadways, you may still risk contact with potentially harmful air pollution. Those living with asthma may also be sensitive to outdoor allergies. In these situations, opening windows is still a good option to ventilate your home. However, consider limiting the amount of time you leave them open. If opening windows is not possible, air filters may be another option to keep good air quality in your home. You should only use devices certified by a trusted source, as some filters use ionizing technology which can produce harmful gas inside your home. You can view a list of filters certified as safe here.

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You Can Do Pulmonary Rehab at Home

While at no greater risk of getting sick with COVID-19, people with lung diseases like COPD are at higher risk for becoming seriously ill if they do become infected. Continuing your respiratory therapy is an important way to stay healthy. As many pulmonary groups are suspending programs during this outbreak, we do not want social distancing to stop you from getting the exercise you need! There are a number of ways you can continue your pulmonary rehab at home.

We put together a number of resources to keep you moving in your own home. We encourage you to talk to your health care provider if you have any concerns about what exercises or activity will work best for you.

Download Fact Sheet: Pulmonary Rehabilitation at Home 

pulmonary rehab exercises

 

Video: Daily Pulmonary Rehab at Home Exercises

Developed by the University Health Network

We recognize the COVID-19 outbreak may be stressful for some people. One of the best things people can do to support themselves is to take
care of their bodies whether that be through regular exercise, meditation, or healthy eating.

Coronavirus and COPD: What You Should Know

It is important those living with COPD and their caregivers are well-informed about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and take proper steps to minimize the risk of infection. Since developments are fast-breaking, continue to follow trusted news sources or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illness in people. Human coronaviruses are not new — they are common throughout the world and typically cause mild to moderate illnesses. The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a new respiratory virus first identified in December 2019 as the cause of an outbreak in China. COVID-19 is likely more highly contagious than other highly contagious coronavirus strains such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).

People with underlying health conditions, including COPD, are at no greater risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 than others; however, they are more likely to experience serious complications if they become infected.

Transmission of Virus

Human coronaviruses are most commonly spread from close contact with an infected person to others through:

• the air, if someone coughs or sneezes;
• close personal contact, like touching or shaking hands; and
• touching an object or surface that has been exposed to the virus, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands;

The current coronavirus, COVID-19, appears to occur mainly through respiratory transmission.

Symptoms

Most people who get sick with COVID-19 will develop mild to moderate respiratory symptoms. However, people who are more susceptible to infection may develop more severe disease. The most common symptoms include fever, tiredness, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. Some patients may also have aches and pains, runny nose, nasal congestions, sore throat or diarrhea.

Illness can begin 2 to 14 days after an exposure. If these symptoms sound like symptoms of influenza, you are correct. But the consequences of COVID-19 are potentially more serious, which is why if you experience these symptoms you are encouraged to seek medical attention. Most people infected with the virus – about 80% – recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

Important Steps for People Living with COPD as Coronavirus Spreads

1. Maintain at least a 30-day supply of your prescribed medications. Check with your insurance provider for refill terms.

2. Stock up on every day supplies in your home. If possible, ask someone to bring items to your home so you do not have to travel outside.

3. Check with your oxygen supplier to see how it will deal with COVID-19. It’s important to ensure that your routine oxygen needs will be met.

4. Establish a COVID-19 hygiene routine for people entering home (i.e using hand sanitizer, handwashing, etc.), but try to avoid contact with others as much as possible especially if  COVID-19 outbreak is identified in your community.

5. If home health nurses or aides assist you with household tasks, ask what steps they are taking to ensure prevention practices are in place.

6. Stay inside unless absolutely necessary, like to visit your health care provider. If you must go out, keep a 6 foot distance from others and wash your hands often.

Everyday Steps Those Living with COPD Can Take to Further Protect Against Coronavirus

1. Wash your hands often during the day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer to be sure you’ve washed your hands for 20 seconds? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice. Keep a bottle or two of hand sanitizer nearby.

2. Routinely clean surfaces in your home (wipes work great) and avoid directly touching surfaces that may contain germs. This includes your telephone, the TV remote control, gym equipment, and the steering wheel of your car.

3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands. This is good advice all year round. Once contaminated, your hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth.

4. Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Cough into your elbow instead of your hands.

5. Stay in your home and avoid close contact with others who are sick.

6. If you have not yet quit smoking, please do so now and give your respiratory system a break. If you contract COVID-19 you will need your respiratory system to be as strong as possible.

Additional Resources

 

Do you live with COPD or care for someone who does? Sign-up for our e-newsletter which contains practical tips for living well, the latest in COPD research and legislative updates that may affect you. You will also receive an annual Inspiration newsletter by mail. 

Interested in hearing more from Respiratory Health Association about important lung health and clean air policy issues? Sign-up to join our advocacy e-mail list to receive quarterly updates on what we’re doing to help move Illinois toward a healthier future.

Women Living with COPD: Ask the Healthcare Provider

Respiratory Health Association sat down with MeiLan K. Han, MD, MS, Professor and Director of the Michigan Airways Program at the University of Michigan Health System to address some questions from women living with COPD.

What should women know about COPD?

Women are at equal risk for COPD as men, and in fact some studies suggest women are more susceptible. Women also comprise a higher percentage of individuals living with COPD who have never smoked.

Dr. Han stated that while it is certain that more women die of COPD than men in the US, this may be related to lower risk of dying from other things like heart disease, which, may affect men at an earlier age. However, she emphasized that women with COPD may present with greater symptoms than men and may experience more frequent exacerbations.

How do women know if they should have a COPD screening? When should women be screened for COPD?

If someone is feeling short of breath with activities or experiencing frequent respiratory infections, regardless of smoking history she should discuss with her physician undergoing a breathing test called “spirometry”.

What are steps that women can take to manage their COPD?

There are medications that can help in addition to exercise and life-style management strategies. Patients should talk to their doctor about the most appropriate medications for them and also inquire about whether they would benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, a formal exercise and disease management program.

Interested in learning more about how women can recognize the signs of lung diseases like COPD? Dr. Han shares some more advice:

Let’s Talk About Living Better with COPD

November is National COPD Awareness Month, a time to talk about the disease and raise awareness around symptoms and treatment. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a lung disease that causes difficulty breathing and shortness of breath due to airflow blockage. COPD affects nearly 16 million Americans, and millions more live with undiagnosed symptoms. Earlier diagnosis can help those living with COPD begin to improve their health and quality of life.

COPD may be a large burden on an individual. Without proper management and education, COPD can affect all sorts of activities of daily living. Anxiety and depression among COPD patients and their caregivers only make the problem worse. If you are living with COPD, it is important to recognize any changes in your symptoms and any limitations on your activities to better manage day-to-day living with COPD. The following are recommendations for living well everyday with COPD.

Recognize the importance of practicing prevention strategies

It is important to monitor changes to physical and mental health when living with COPD. Below is a list of prevention recommendations:

  • Get vaccinated (annual influenza and routine pneumonia);
  • Wash your hands routinely. Stay home when you are ill;
  • Stop smoking if you currently do, and eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke;
  • Review your medication list with your health care providers to ensure the list is current and you know how to properly use your medications;
  • Ensure you have a sufficient supply of medication at home, especially during winter;
  • Be aware of changes in mental health and communicate any changes to your health care provider and informal caregiver (spouse, child, etc.).

Monitor symptoms of COPD

People living with COPD should track symptoms and share any changes with a health care provider:

  • Please share any increase in coughing or difficulty breathing with your healthcare provider;
  • If a new medication is not working for you and not minimizing your symptoms, please tell your health care provider;
  • It is always okay to obtain a second opinion.

Anxiety and depression are common in patients with COPD and their caregivers

Mental health may impact someone’s ability to manage his or her COPD. It is important to be aware of the following:

  • Anxiety and depression in COPD patients is associated with increased COPD flare-ups, increased hospitalizations, longer lengths of a hospital stay, and decreased quality of life;
  • Be an active part of your care team. Be proactive with your physical AND mental health care;
  • Maintain physical activity, especially in fall and winter. Physical activity can have positive benefits on physical health and mental well-being—make sure to talk to health care providers about physical activities you can do indoors or at home.

If you care for someone living with COPD, it’s important to also take care of your own well-being. View RHA’s Caregiver’s Toolkit to learn more about ways you can help support those you care for while taking time for yourself.

If you live with COPD or want to learn more, sign-up to receive our Inspiration COPD Newsletter.

Respiratory Therapists are Lung Health Heroes

This week is Respiratory Care Week – a time to celebrate respiratory therapists who work tirelessly helping those living with lung diseases breathe easier. Whether testing for lung function in a young child with asthma, or helping someone with COPD use an oxygen tank, respiratory therapists give people the power to take control and live to the fullest.

Their work is especially important considering how common lung diseases are in the United States:

• 25 million people live with asthma
• 16 million live with COPD and another 16 million have undiagnosed symptoms
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women

Respiratory therapists help people better understand and manage their illnesses, allowing them to live without distraction from symptoms. They also provide treatments to those in need of care, improving lung health and way of life.

For respiratory therapists like Rose Riggins, CRTT of AMITA LaGrange in Illinois, it’s way more than a job – it’s getting to know people, their lives and their stories.

“Working with the patients throughout the years has made them feel like family,” she says.

If you are living with lung disease, here are some of respiratory therapists’ most common tips for preventing additional complications and living the healthiest way possible:

• Get a flu shot every year to prevent additional complications of lung disease
• Live smoke-free and avoid secondhand smoke or close contact with smokers
• Eat right to maintain the most energy for staying healthy
• Avoid chemicals – like scented candles and harsh household cleaners – that may cause lung flare-ups
Monitor air quality and avoid the outdoors on poor air quality days

Join RHA this week and every day in saying thank you to respiratory therapists everywhere!

To learn more about becoming a respiratory therapist, view these resources.

Living Better Together Conference Brings Together COPD Community

Do you live with COPD or care for someone who does? Join Respiratory Health Association on Thursday, November 21, 2019 for our 16th annual Living Better Together COPD Conference at Meridian Banquets and Conference Center in Rolling Meadows, IL.

Every year, we host the largest patient-focused COPD event in the United States. The conference – which welcomed nearly 300 people in 2018 – gives those living with COPD, their families and caregivers a chance to come together to promote disease awareness and share stories. The day-long conference will also feature speakers presenting on a variety of topics, including:

  • Cardiovascular Conditions in Patients with COPD
  • Updates in Oxygen Use
  • New Treatments for Emphysema: Endobronchial Valves
  • Patient Empowerment: Advanced Care Planning
  • Latest in COPD Medications
  • Physical Therapy and Music Therapy

New this year — our “Ask the Healthcare Provider” session will feature an expert panel answering frequently asked questions about oxygen use, current COPD treatments and how to better self-manage COPD.

Registration is currently open until early November. Register Online

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is actually the general term for a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make it difficult to breathe. Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are two of the most common conditions that make up COPD.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 16 million Americans report they have been diagnosed with COPD. It is estimated another 16 million people have symptoms of the disease but have not yet been diagnosed. To learn more about COPD and how to manage the condition, explore our resources:

If you need additional information on the conference or help registering, please contact Hannah Garza (312-628-0207) or Avanthi Chatrathi (312-229-6186).

people pose at event

Living Better Together brings together people living with COPD, their caregivers and healthcare providers.

RHA to Study Impact of Air Pollution on Public Health in Chicago

All but two of the Chicago Transit Authority’s (CTA) 1,800 buses run on diesel fuel. Respiratory Health Association knows the health and environmental effects of vehicle pollution in the air and is focused on finding healthier transportation options for Chicago.

This summer, the Joyce Foundation awarded a one-year grant to help RHA explore the impacts of air pollution in communities throughout the city of Chicago. Funds will support a study of how diesel buses affect the lung health of residents and help increase efforts to educate leaders and the public on the potential benefits of electric vehicles.

Traffic at nighit in city

RHA’s study will explore the potential health benefits of using electric buses in place of diesel-powered vehicles.

“We see electric buses as a great opportunity, if not a necessity, for a healthier Chicago,” commented Erica Salem, RHA Senior Director, Strategy, Programs & Policy. “The Joyce Foundation’s generous grant allows us to examine how our city can move toward transportation options that provide cleaner air and healthy lungs for all Chicagoans.”

RHA will work closely with the University of Chicago’s Spatial Data Science and the Chicago Department of Public Health to study the health effect diesel buses have across different Chicago neighborhoods. Teams will compare data of those living with lung diseases who also live near busy bus routes, bus garages or maintenance shops to residents living in lower bus traffic communities.

This work builds on RHA’s efforts to secure Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s pledge for cleaner bus options. Chicago lags behind other major US cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have announced plans to move to all electric buses sometime in the next 20 years.

RHA will release a final report in the spring of 2020.

Flu Shot is a Gift for Your Lungs

Vaccines are a safe and important part of medical care for everyone. Regular immunizations prevent common bugs like the flu and limit the spread of disease through schools, workplaces and communities. For people living with lung disease, a flu shot is especially important. Someone with asthma or COPD:

  • Has a greater risk of catching common infections like the flu
  • May feel added effects from flu symptoms
  • Is more likely to develop pneumonia or other lung problems

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu shots may lower the risk of getting sick by 40 to 60 percent. It also helps those who cannot receive a shot, including children under 6 months old. Additionally, the CDC typically recommends a one-time pneumonia shot for those who live with lung disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and a great time to talk with your doctor about ways to stay healthy going into peak flu season. Flu cases are most common in the fall and winter, especially between December and February. Ask if you are up-to-date on past vaccines and about getting an annual flu shot.

If you do not have a regular doctor or healthcare provider, there are a number of local and national resources to help:

Save the date: COPD Patient Conference

Join us on Thursday, November 21, 2019 for Respiratory Health Association’s 16th annual Living Better Together COPD Conference at Meridian Banquets and Conference Center in Rolling Meadows, IL. RHA’s goal at the 2019 COPD conference is to promote disease awareness and to help people who are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to become educated consumers of healthcare, as well as effective disease self-managers.

At last year’s event, nearly 300 individuals living with COPD, caregivers and pulmonary rehab staff enjoyed a variety of sessions, including a moderated keynote, “Living Everyday with COPD”. Panelists Ravi Kalhan, MD, MS and Harvey Wolf, Psy.D shared recommendations on preventing COPD exacerbations, methods for monitoring symptoms of COPD, and tips to manage the comorbidities of anxiety and depression in patients with COPD.

Conference planning is under way and people living with COPD and their caregivers will not want to miss this year’s event. Registration will open in September. Supplemental oxygen and bus transportation from locations throughout Chicagoland will be offered.

Living Better Together is the country’s largest patient-focused COPD conference. We welcome individual or group attendance. If you have any questions about Living Better Together logistics, programming or attendance, please contact RHA program coordinator Avanthi Chatrathi at (312) 229-6186 or [email protected].