Rub a Dub Dub... I'm Breathless In The Tub. 7 Ways to Make Bathing Easier with Less Breathlessness
Every time we get a new patient at our Pulmonary Rehab center, we sit them down for a patient assessment. It is our little “get to know you” session and without fail one of the top concerns from patients that I see is that they get breathless while bathing. Sit back and think about it for a moment. You are in an environment that is typically confined, warm and humid. For most of the patients that I meet, heat and humidity are their nemesis. If we can find ways to make bathing easier with less breathlessness, you may have more confidence to bathe without worry or fear.
1. Bathe at a time of day that you have the most energy. For many of my patients, routine is a way of life. They have always gotten up every day and bathed or showered in the morning. Why change this routine? Well, the reason is that if the morning is not a time of day that you have the most energy… wait until later when you feel more energized to get that bath or shower time in.
2. Prepare – I talked about preparing for an activity in an earlier blog (see Preparation Blog) so this idea is similar. You can’t go into a bathing activity without preparation. Use your short acting bronchodilator or rescue inhaler 10-15 minutes prior to bathing. Open up those airways so that you are breathing at your peak level. This may help alleviate the breathlessness from coming on so quickly and can also help with recovering faster than if you had nothing on board helping your lungs.
3. Vent the bathroom either by running a fan or leaving the door propped open. Most homes have fans/vents installed in bathrooms with tubs and showers. Running with vent will help cut down on the heat and humidity that is increased with running a warm shower or bath. Propping the door (if privacy allows) will also help to lower the heat and humidity levels in the bathroom.
4. Get a shower seat. Being able to sit in the shower may help you rest your legs while bathing. When a person gets very short of breath, they can feel like their legs get “wobbly.” You don’t want to risk falling in the shower because of this. Allow yourself to sit down and get most of you scrubbing done. These shower seats can be picked up from most medical supply stores or ordered online. I have also recommended to those on a budget to use a light weight deck chair with arms that has slits on the seat to allow water to flow through. These are typically narrow enough to fit into a standard tub/shower or free standing shower and can be stowed away easily if guests come for a visit. Not to mention they are fairly inexpensive and can usually be replaced easily without hurting the wallet.
5. Wear Your Oxygen – YES! You can do it! If you have oxygen at home and are ordered to use it continuously or with exertion, now is the time to use it. Many of the patients that I meet don’t realize they can do this. I will admit that it will take a little getting used to having to finagle oxygen tube as you wash your face etc. but you will thank me later when you realize how much easier bathing became when you wore it in the bath and/or shower.
6. Dry off using a terrycloth robe or large bath sheet. I will never forget when I suggested wearing a terrycloth robe to a retired Marine Colonel. He looked at me and firmly said, “Ma’am, I don’t wear terrycloth robes.” The idea for using the robe (or large bath sheet for all those non-robe wearers) is that they dry you off passively. Here’s the scenario: you make it through the entire shower/bath with very little breathlessness and then the first thing you have to do is stand up, take a towel, hunch over (which is very difficult to do and breathe at the same time), and dry yourself off. Conversely, you put on the terrycloth robe or wrap the bath sheet around you and just sit….. Ahhhh! You get it right?!
7. Take your time. Rushing around will definitely cause breathlessness to catch up with you just as fast as you are moving. Making sure you have plenty of time to get ready will not only help to avoid breathlessness but also the stress that being in a rush puts on a person living with a lung condition.
Have you made any other accommodations for bathing that I haven’t mentioned in this blog? Comment below if you have any other advice for others on how to avoid breathlessness while bathing.
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