Creating a COPD-Friendly Home (Part 2)

Be sure to check out Creating a COPD-Friendly Home (Part 1) for more tips.

Many COPD sufferers don't realize how much dust there is floating around in the air they breathe at home every day. Well it is everywhere and it is a big contributor in causing shortness of breath and exacerbations.

Everywhere you look in your house, whether you realize it or not, there is dust, &, (if you own a pet), dander. In the couch, love seat, chairs, & drapes, which have been hanging on most people's windows since they got their home or apartment. The wall-to-wall carpet, knickknacks, tchotchkes keepsakes, trinkets you have all over your house, even the pictures on your wall, are all dust magnets. If you're an ex-smoker or are still living with a smoker all of the above is not only laden with dust but also smoke residue. Both the dust, dander & the smoke residue, (if any), needs to be removed from your home which will lead to much cleaner air.

Making home improvements with COPD

For those of you who once smoked and are now smoke-free you can now work on improving other areas of your home. The smoke residue that is clinging to most object in your home needs to be removed. Walls need to be washed or painted, all clothes & bedding should be washed. Any other smoke residue should be eliminated if you do the other thing I suggest to make a COPD friendly home.

Removing carpet

If it's at all possible, eliminate any carpet from your house and replace it with laminate or vinyl flooring. I realized in most cases elimination of carpet is not feasible. So, I advise you to have your carpet as well as your furniture steam-cleaned at least once every year or two. Make sure when you have the cleaning done they do not use any chemicals, a mild or anti allergenic soap should do the trick. After carpet and furniture have been deep cleaned, vacuuming every day or at least once a week is a must do. Vacuuming stirs up dust & dander as you clean, so if you have COPD & do the dusting/vacuuming yourself use a mask. It is best to use a vacuum equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or double bags. Once again, if you can do it in no other room in the house, (if at all possible), remove the carpet from your bedroom and replace it with laminate or vinyl. Your bedroom should be a place you can go to rest, re-energize, & breathe easier in a clean air environments

Switching from drapes to blinds

I recommend getting rid of the drapes. In my home I have chosen mini blinds. Mini blinds are easy to maintain and take care of, and cheap enough that you can replace them periodically with a different color to add a little spice to the room. Another thing you can do if you prefer to have some kind of window treatment is a simple valance or sheer curtain. One that can be taken down weekly/monthly, washed and re-hung. If you must have drapes you need to have them washed or dry cleaning on a regular basis. In between you should vacuum them frequently. When you vacuum your floors, vacuum the drapes and furniture too. One last thing about window treatments: if you have drapes in the living room or common areas, I understand, but, please eliminate the drapes from your sleeping area. Make that one place a complete breathe easy environment.

Decor can collect dust!

Knickknacks, tchotchkes, and keepsakes - I know people love those little things, but they're dust collectors. It's one thing if you're going to take the time every day to wipe them down with a damp cloth, (because that's the only way you'll keep them dust free), but if not, I recommend putting them in storage. You'd be surprised at how much you don't miss them once they're gone. If it is something you cannot possibly give away or pack away, then put it behind glass. Get a curio cabinet and put it in there. That way you can look at it but the only thing you have to clean is the outside of the cabinet. To me, taking a deep dust-free breath is better than looking at any object. A little tip about dusting; I find the best thing to use for dusting is a wet cloth, or swiffer. They both keep the dust from flying into your air. If possible your house should be vacuumed & dusted everyday. If that can't be done at least once a week, & remember when vacuuming or dusting use a mask.

Handling pets

Your pets may be your best friends, but if you have COPD, pets can also be one of your worst enemy. Pets not only shed hair, but dander as well. Dander is a combination of dead skin cells and hair or feathers. It becomes airborne which is not good if you have COPD. Also dried feces, or dried saliva may flake off from an animal's fur and become airborne where it is inhaled making it harder to breathe. The best thing for your COPD would be to find your pet/pets a new home. I know that is not realistic for most pet owners, as your pet is consider a loved family member. The next best thing is keeping your large pet outdoors as much as possible, (weather permitting). At the very least, you should bar pets from your bedrooms and try not to allow your dog or cat sleep in bed with you. It almost guarantees you'll wake up wheezing and short of breath. Avoid them having contact with your face, & after petting them or handling a pet, you should wash your hands thoroughly. Restrict pets to rooms without carpet if possible. Wood, vinyl, or laminate floors traps less dander than carpet, & are easier to clean. Keep pets off the couch, bed, counters, & tables. All furniture, fabrics, or materials that pets do come into contact with should be vacuumed, (with a HEPA filter), or washed frequently. This includes throw rugs, pet beds, cushions, pillows, and blankets. Bathe your pet, often, research shows that frequently bathing your pet reduces the allergens found in their dander. Dogs need to be washed at least once a week, brush your dog & cat once a day to remove loose hair & keep litter boxes kept free of feces. Bird cages, small pets, & rodent cages should be cleaned at least every other day and moved out of living areas. Remember to wear a mask and gloves when doing any cleaning chores involving your pet. Keeping your environment as dander free as possible will help your breathing, thus allowing you to enjoy your pet more.

I know I have listed many things in part one and two of COPD friendly home, but I have not advised you to do anything I have not done myself and found can make a huge improvement in my breathing. However since I moved into an apartment, other than the kitchen and bath I do have wall-to-wall carpeting. I live alone which makes it easier to keep the carpet clean. I have trouble vacuuming, so I'm getting one of those remote-control vacuums that I can use every day to keep the carpet & flooring clean. My Wizard of Oz collection & everything my grandchildren have ever given or made for me that are packed in boxes and stored. For me, it is more important for me to breathe dust free air than have them on display collecting dust, that I could not keep up with cleaning. I have done the same with any pictures I had. The only things on my wall is a clock that belonged to my deceased husband and a picture collage of my children and grandchildren.

I know how hard it will be for you to do the thing I write about, but if you want to have a COPD friendly home, institute as many of them as you can. Breathing easier will be worth everything you give up.
Breathe deep & easy

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on March 2, 2018, Mary Ultes passed away. Mary was an engaged advocate for the COPD community who strived to help people live fulfilling lives. She is deeply missed.

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