Safety First. Preventing Accidents and Safety Advice for People with Lung Conditions
Welcome back to BreatheLiveFit! If you are new to BreatheLiveFit, I would love it if you subscribed. It’s free and you will receive an email notification when I post new content. If subscribing isn’t “your thing” that’s okay too! Come back and visit time to time to see what new info that I may have posted. My name is Christina Hunt and I am a registered respiratory therapist in Richmond, VA. I have been a therapist for 17 years and have worked in a pulmonary rehab center for the last 10 years. I created this blog for people who have chronic lung conditions. I hope that with every blog post you might learn something to make living with your lung condition a little easier or that the advice that I offer may help you to manage your lung condition so that you can make the best out of every day. My aim is to keep it positive! So, let’s get into this week’s topic…
It’s been over a year since I touched on the topic of safety. Safety is not always on everyone’s mind (and that’s okay), however, it is important that when you have a lung condition that you make an attempt to periodically assess your equipment and living space to make sure there are no areas that need attention. We all get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our lives (or even life’s current events like coronavirus) yet failing to address safety concerns could cause bigger problems to happen like harm to yourself or your family. Take a few minutes after reading my blog to do a “safety check” in your home. We are all spending a ton of time right now quarantining… let’s make sure our environment is safe and free of hazards.
Here are my recommendations for 10 Safety Tips for People with a Lung Condition.
1. Keep an updated list of your medications in your purse or wallet. This tends to be a mundane task for many of my patients yet having an updated list easily accessible in an emergency could really save your life. You can write it out on a small sheet of paper or create a document on your computer that you can easily update. Many of my patients include major medical info on the back as well. (For example: Are you diabetic? Do you have a pacemaker or defibrillator? When was it placed? Do you have a living will or DNR on file?)
2. Consider having a medical alert button and if not, keep your cell phone handy. I have mentioned this several times in past blog posts that having the ability to easily call for help, gives you and your loved ones peace of mind. Keep emergency phone numbers in a place where someone can easily find them. Make sure that your emergency contact knows where they can access important documents like insurance information, living will, and next of kin contact information in the event of an emergency.
3. Fire Prevention. Make sure you have several fire extinguishers located around your home and KNOW HOW TO USE THEM. You may just want to take a quick minute and read the instructions. This may surprise you, but many people don’t know exactly how to use a fire extinguisher and you aren’t going to have time in an emergency to read the directions and figure it out. Fire extinguishers have an expiration date. (Yep, that’s right!) Check this date and replace the extinguisher if it has expired. Make sure you have smoke detectors installed and are working properly. Never overload outlets and extension cords with medical equipment and any other electrical device. If you smoke, do not smoke while lying in your bed. Never EVER smoke while using oxygen.
4. Check your equipment and perform routine maintenance. Check the cords on your concentrators, nebulizers, and CPAP machines. Never use any medical equipment that has a plug or cord that is fraying. Most home medical equipment should often have preventive maintenance performed. We would all like to believe that home care companies keep track of this (and some do) but most home care companies are bogged down and don’t have a foolproof way of making sure everyone’s medical equipment is checked on a routine basis. Most concentrators and CPAP machines need filter changes and other maintenance. If this isn’t done, it can affect the machine's output and efficacy to work properly. Check your device’s manufacturer recommendations and see when your machine might be due for a “check-up.”
5. Oxygen safety. Remember to keep all supplemental oxygen away from flames. Like I mentioned above NEVER smoke while using supplemental oxygen. If you have oxygen tanks in your home. Store them in carts or a rack. Lay them down on their side if you do not have a rack or cart to place them in. Never leave them free standing because it can be a safety hazard if they should fall over and be damaged. Replace oxygen tubing periodically. Be aware that it can become brittle after extended use and could crack or puncture easily. These cracks or punctures can oftentimes be hard to see, and you may not notice that there is an issue. (In fact, this problem could cause you to feel like you are getting worse and not recognize it is a medical equipment issue.)
6. Remove obstacles and trip hazards. For many people with lung conditions who wear oxygen, managing the tubing that they need is enough of a trip hazard to contend with. Remove or secure any throw rugs that tend to scoot or slide. Remove any obstacles or clutter around your living space that could make it difficult to walk around. If you use a rollator or walker, make sure your walkways and hallways are easily passable. Ask guests and family members to put shoes and other clutter away to prevent trips.
7. Wear properly fitting shoes. Women should stick to wearing low heels or flats. No flip flops or loosely fitting clogs that could cause you to become unstable while walking. If you need a cane or walker, be sure to have a healthcare practitioner correctly measure and fit you for these assistive devices. They will not give you the support you need if they are too high or too low. Remember after standing, to make sure you aren’t lightheaded before you start moving around. Pace yourself and do not rush while walking around. Going too fast can easily make you breathless. Use hail rails when climbing or descending a set of stairs. I recommend utilizing breathing techniques while taking each step up.
8. Clean your nebulizer and mouthpiece. After each use, your nebulizer and mouthpiece should be rinsed out with warm water and dried. After your last treatment of the day, you should wash it out with warm soapy water using a mild detergent and then dry it. Every 3rd day, you should soak your nebulizer and mouthpiece in a one-part vinegar/three parts water solution, rinse and dry thoroughly. Never store your nebulizer and mouthpiece wet. You do not need to clean the tubing. The tubing should just be replaced when it starts to become hard and less pliable.
9. Safety in the bathroom. Install grab bars by the toilet, bathtub, and shower. Have a rubber bathmat on the floor of bathtubs and showers to prevent slipping. Make sure bathroom rugs have a non-slip backing and that they don’t move when stepped on. As I mentioned before in my bathing blog, use a shower seat if you get breathless while bathing. Also, have a chair or another place to sit down in the bathroom if you need to take a break when grooming in order to catch your breath. I recommend leaving a dim light or night light on in the bathroom at night so that you can see easily and aren’t navigating around in the dark if you need to make restroom visits.
10. Discard any medications that are expired. I think we can all be guilty of hanging on to old cold medications a bit too long, but when you have something like a cold or allergies flaring up, you want the medication that you take to be up to date. Go through your medicine cabinet and toss any expired medications. Replace them with new ones that you may have them on hand if you need them. While you are at it, check your rescue inhaler to make sure it hasn’t expired as well. Request a refill promptly if you are getting low on "puffs available" or if it has expired.
Do you have any other suggestions to make homes safer for people with lung conditions? Please feel free to share them in the comments below or on my Facebook page. I would love to hear your ideas that I can share with other BreatheLiveFit readers!
Thanks for Reading!
If you enjoyed this blog, I invite you to check out some of the topics that I have covered in the past
Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring. 10 Spring Tips for People with Lung Conditions
Upper Body Strengthening Using Resistance Bands for People with Lung Conditions
Acapellas, Peak Flow Meters, Incentive Spirometers…OH MY!
Remember: We are in this TOGETHER!
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