Sloth wearing an oxygen tank and walking towards the shower.

Showering, Personal Hygiene & COPD

Most of us with COPD end up showering and taking care of personal hygiene at night or in the middle of the day because mornings are spent like a sloth, going very slowly until our breathing catches up with our puffers and meds. COPD and chronic illness can make you tired and short of breath, leaving you with very little energy, even though it is still necessary to maintain a certain level of personal hygiene.

In my experience, if you use oxygen for exertion, you can use it while showering. Talk to your doctor about whether you should increase you oxygen saturation while showering. There is no danger to using O2 in the shower and water will not get into the tubing. If you are worried about it, have the O2 tubing hanging down from the shower curtain rod and insert cannulas in your nose as normal. Always speak to your doctor with any questions or concerns.

Planning ahead before showering

Think ahead before getting into the shower so everything is ready in advance and you will have what you need at hand coming out of the shower.

I have a fresh outfit ready along with a pair of slippers to pop my feet into. Then I put a lightweight stool in front of the mirror so I can comb my hair. I don’t use carpets but if you do, make sure they are skid free, and remove all other obstacles that could cause slips and falls.

A sturdy plastic shower chair is a great addition to your shower as it grips the bottom of the tub and helps to keep you steady without losing your balance preventing shortness of breath. Mine has a holder for the shower head and a back attached, but a stool would work just as well.

Your shower should already be equipped with handrails, one on the side and the other in front of you. I had my handrails professionally installed so there was no issue of stability.

Some more helpful tips

A hand-held shower head with a long hose keeps you in control of the water pressure, spray, and temperature. Keep water on the cooler side so as not to build up too much humidity and always have a fan on or a window slightly open.

A soap caddy should be placed so that soap, shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizer are always at hand and ready when you need them. This will also help to prevent slips and falls as no extra soap or bottles are underfoot.

Raising arms over your head to wash your hair can cause further shortness of breath; you may need help with this on bad breathing days.

One of the best tips I got from Respiratory Rehab was to use a terrycloth robe. Not easy to find and not cheap, if you do the search you will not be sorry. Throwing on my terry robe after a shower keeps me warm. I save the energy it would take to dry myself and leave it on for a while until I am ready to dress.

Overall my showering experience is 100% better managed thinking it through.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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