Medication, Exercise, and the Oximeter
As warmer weather approaches my thoughts, like many others, turn to the great outdoors. What can I do that is fun? Where can we visit? Where can I take some really good pictures with my camera? But to enjoy all the things I want to do, I have to follow some simple rules. As you do too to get the most out of your life, and lungs.
Most of us use several inhalers. Some give medication as a spray, while we have to suck in powder with others. If you have a powder inhaler, and most of us have, and you have little breath to inhale the medication into your lungs then please visit your medical adviser as soon as possible, and ask if a mist alternative would be a possible option. It could make all the difference to you, since if you're unable to inhale the powder deep into your lungs it may not be working for you.
Morning routine and inhaler tips
When I wake in the morning the first pump I take is Ventolin. The reason I take Ventolin spray first is it is a fast reactor, and will open my airways quickly. Allowing me to get the medication from my two powder pumps deep into my lungs.
For me, the easiest way to take a mist inhaler is using a spacer. If you do not have a spacer ask your health care provider if it would be right for you, as that can make sure you get all of any spray medication into your lungs. When using any inhaler for the drug to get deep into your lungs you need to sit up, back straight, head level, and inhale.
A method to medicating
If you use a mist spray inhaler without a spacer first exhale as far as you can, back straight, head level. Clasp the inhaler firmly around your lips, and while you slowly inhale, take a dose. Please make sure you shake the medication first. And if you have to take a second dose, give at least 30 seconds before the second dose. Shaking the medication again before any second dose.
For powder inhalers, the difference is you need to inhale as fast as you can to get the powder as deep into your lungs as possible. Sit up, back straight, with your head level, exhale as far as you can. Then put your lips firmly around your inhaler and inhale as fast as you can. Hold your breath for a short while, then continue to breathe gently.
We must exercise as exercise will build up our stamina, respiratory system, and muscles. The beauty of it is we do not have to do a lot of it to get benefits. Exercise will help to keep our weight under control. And enable us to breathe easier. I live in a mountainous country with lots of ups and downs making walking outdoors all but impossible. So I exercise at home. I will move around the house. If there are dishes to wash get busy cleaning them. Any and every little job is exercise.
Different places to exercise
If you prefer you can use a treadmill. But as I don't have anywhere to keep what is a large item my favorite is walking on the spot. Sometimes I do this listening to music, other times watching a film. If you, like me, use oxygen, make sure you use it. The advantage of exercising as I do is that I am in a safe environment. It is temperature-controlled, flat, and I can stop anytime I need to for as long as I want.
Walk on the spot at a pace you are comfortable with moving your arms like a soldier. It does not matter how slow you are. Or how often you need to stop to rest. What is important is you are exercising.
Even a little exercise will help
If you can afford to buy a Fitbit to record your progress you will find that a great motivator. As well as knowing how many steps you have taken. My Fitbit tells me what my heart rate was during exercise, how many steps taken and lots more information. Aim to increase your steps a little as often as you are able. But if you find you are comfortable with the steps you do and don't want to increase them, that is fine also.
By exercising you will find your stamina will increase, and you will feel better for it. If you can walk on the spot for half an hour at least five times a week with rests along the way you are doing really well. But if you can only manage five or ten minutes that is fine also. Even a little exercise will help you.
Breathing better with more energy
Exercise will not only help you to breathe better, and have more energy. But be good for your heart too. After a while, your resting heart rate will be lower.
While exercising I often test my blood oxygen saturation levels using an oximeter. If you use supplementary oxygen I recommend you do this too. If you notice your saturation levels have dropped below 90 please rest for a few minutes to enable them to climb to your normal.
An oximeter will not give a good reading with cold fingers so make sure your hands are warm before taking a reading. Nor does an oximeter give a true reading if the user is wearing nail polish so please remove this before using. Put the device onto a finger then wait for a minute for the reading to settle before taking note. If your saturation levels become very low during exercise please stop exercising until you are able to see your medical advisor and ask how you can be helped to exercise safely.
By being careful, exercising, and using your medication right it is possible to almost halt the progression of COPD. Even at the very severe stage. I have held my FEV1 to 25% for several years now even though my gas exchange has worsened a little.
I am not anti smoking but be aware. If you smoke you will deteriorate faster. I only mention this because I know if you continue to smoke with COPD you will have more exacerbations, and sadly may die sooner.
Enjoy your life
I hope you have found this article useful. Enjoy your life, friends and family. Be positive and smile. But most of all, Breathe Easy.
How has your experience been navigating the healthcare system as someone with COPD?