Living With COPD As Reopening Begins

The lifting of stay-at-home orders, while a positive sign, presents special risks for people living with chronic lung disease.  As places are reopening and people begin mixing with family members and friends who are no longer practicing social distancing, people living with COPD need to make sure they stay healthy and avoid exposure to the novel coronavirus.

People with chronic lung disease and other vulnerable conditions and members of their households should still keep in mind ways to remain safe and healthy when stay-at-home orders are lifted. Here are some important tips for continuing to protect yourself:

  • Try to limit trips out in public (e.g., make one big grocery trip every two weeks rather than going more frequently).
  • Continue to wear a cloth mask or face covering in public if it does not restrict your breathing
  • Avoid touching your face and wash your hands often while in public. Wash your hands as soon as you can when you are back at home.
  • Wear an outer layer of clothing (like a jacket or sweater) that you can take off and leave by the door as soon as you get home. This will minimize any germs brought into the house.
  • Try to limit visits with people outside of your household, including friends and grandchildren.
  • Continue social distancing. Social distancing does not mean social isolation.  You can connect with loved ones virtually or write letters and send via mail.  Or you can visit in your yard or a park where you can remain six feet away from guests.
  • Help your family and friends understand why it is important that you are not exposed. Remind them that people with the virus are actually contagious for several days before they show any symptoms. This is what makes the coronavirus so contagious.
  • When outside of your home, continue to practice physical distancing (staying at least six feet away from others). Limit time spent in crowded environments.

Pulmonary Rehabilitation

At this time, we do not know when in-person pulmonary rehabilitation programs will resume.  Pulmonary rehabilitation facilities present special risks because of the number of participants who are considered at-risk for severe COVID-19. They are also close quarters in which many groups operate, which makes social distancing difficult to achieve.  Call your healthcare provider or pulmonary rehabilitation leader to learn what their plans.  For recommendations of exercises that can be done at home, please click here to get a list of exercises and additional resources.

Guidance on Caring for Children & Social Distancing

As family and friends start going back to work, they may ask you to watch grandchildren or other children. Currently, the CDC and AARP recommend that older adults and people with serious underlying medical conditions continue to physically distance themselves from children who do not live in their households.

If asked to care for children who do not live in your household, you can do so in ways that reduce your risk of getting sick. These include ensuring the children have limited contact with other people outside their households. Make sure they practice good hygiene (washing hands, wearing a mask while out, etc.). If someone with COPD (or another high risk condition) is taking care of a child who is sick, consider social distancing within the house. Have that child wear a cloth mask in the house to prevent the spread of the virus to others.

If you would like to receive more information for people living with COPD, please click here.

Khalilah Gates, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Medical Education, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine edited this content.