You Asked. BreatheLiveFit is Answering... Frequently Asked Questions
Hi everyone! I hope that this blog finds you all well. This pandemic has been a crazy time for sure. I have missed my pulmonary rehab patients so much. It has been challenging to say the least not to have my interactions with them each week and continue to generate content for the blog. Thankfully I have been getting lots of emails from patients and from my readers and so today I thought I would answer some questions that I have received. These topics range anywhere from daily management of their lung conditions, to exercise, to oxygen. Hopefully, there is a topic in this blog that answers your questions or might be good review of information that you may have learned in the past but needed a reminder. So, let’s get to it!
Question 1: I have been waking up with shortness of breath. I am pretty sure it is related to my allergies. What would you suggest?
First, any time that you are noticing a significant change in your lung condition, I recommend calling your pulmonary physician and possibly scheduling a visit. If your lung condition is worsening and contributing to this increased shortness of breath in the morning, there may be something medically that your physician could do for you to make you breathe more comfortably. In the meantime, I would suggest when you wake up in the morning, use your rescue inhaler first. This way you can get some immediate relief from your breathlessness. I would also suggest because you used your rescue inhaler first to then wait at least 1-1 ½ hours after to take your controller medications. If the problem persists after seeing your doctor, you may want to inquire about getting a sleep study. Often time, sleep disorders and breathing conditions go hand in hand. It may be worth your time exploring if possibly a sleep disorder could be contributing to your shortness of breath first thing in the morning.
Question 2: What is the best exercise you would recommend for someone with a lung condition?
A well-rounded exercise program is definitely preferred. What I mean about “well-rounded” is a program that includes aerobic activity (walking, jogging, biking), strength training, and stretching. However, if I had to name one activity that I thought would be the “best” for you…I would have to choose walking. Walking is low impact, helps you reduce stress, and lose weight. It increases circulation in your legs to prevent issues like blood clots. I tell my patients all the time.. to focus on duration, not speed. Increasing your endurance through walking will help you to complete everyday tasks. Remember, it’s not how fast you can get something accomplished, it’s CAN you get it accomplished.
Question 3: I have learned breathing techniques like pursed-lip breathing. How and when should I use these techniques to manage my shortness of breath?
Education around breathing techniques is one of the cornerstones of pulmonary rehabilitation. When the body gets breathless, we want to do what all mammals do when they are tired…PANT. Focusing our minds on the process of using breathing techniques will help us to manage stress, recover faster, and possibly get through activities easier with less breathlessness. My first recommendation is to use breathing techniques any time you are performing an activity that typically causes you to be breathless. The first one that comes to mind for all people with lung conditions is climbing stairs. Use breathing techniques like pursed-lip breathing with every step you climb. Incorporate this technique as you exercise, focusing on the breathing as you exert yourself. I also would recommend you utilizing breathing techniques to help you recover from breathlessness. You may find that it will help reduce the time it takes you to recover therefore give you more confidence in how to manage your lung condition. Finally, breathing techniques are often used in meditation, etc. Sitting still, focusing solely on taking deep breaths is a good way to relieve anxiety and stress. (For more information see my Breathing Techniques blog post)
Question 4: I am newly diagnosed with my lung condition. What do I do next?
Having a new diagnosis (especially involving the lungs) can be overwhelming and stressful. The first thing I would recommend is to assemble what you feel is the best healthcare team to help you carefully navigate and manage your condition. It is essential that you have confidence in your physician, and you feel that your needs are being addressed. Next, do your research. Knowledge is power, but there is a lot of misleading stuff out there as well. I would first connect yourself to a foundation that specializes in your condition. They are a wealth of information to help answer questions that are disease-specific. These foundations work tirelessly to get the information out to patients like yourself, sponsor legislation that can benefit people with their lung diagnosis, and they also sponsor research from time to time to develop new therapies and medications. Third, find support. Whether it is friends, family, church members, or a support group…there is strength in numbers. Having people in your “tribe” that you can lean on if or when you need them can really benefit you in the long run. Lastly, get on the “healthy train.” Start eating right and exercising (make sure you get doctor's approval). Eliminate bad habits and focus on your wellness.
Question 5: I have heard that weather change can affect my lungs. Is this true?
My coworker and I often say that our lung patients tend to be our weather predictors. They can feel changes in heat, humidity, and they often can tell when we will be getting rain. If you think about it… the lungs have an “open pathway” to the atmosphere (your trachea). I talked about the science behind it in my Weather Changes blog. So, what can you do about this? Plan ahead. Make sure you stay informed on what is going on with the weather in your area. Schedule your outings (if possible) before the weather hits. Use your rescue inhaler and breathing techniques more on days when the weather is impacting your shortness of breath.
Question 6: My physician has asked that I wear oxygen with exertion. Should I wear it while driving?
A common opinion is because you are sitting while operating a vehicle is that you don’t need it while you are driving. However, it is my opinion that you should absolutely wear it while driving. Oxygen will help aid you in your reaction time and can possibly help you to avoid litigation if you are found to be liable for an accident and not wearing your oxygen as prescribed. If you are opposed to wearing it, get another opinion from your physician first before discontinuing the use of oxygen while driving.
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