A person is standing on a laptop teaching about assistive devices for better breathing.

Things I Teach People With COPD

As a respiratory therapist (RT), I teach a lot. We RTs do a lot of teaching.  Although, the only place where we RTs are available for teaching is in the hospital setting.

So, I thought I would share some of what we teach COPD patients in this post. That way, you don't have to get admitted to taking advantage of what we share with our patients.

So, here are five things we RTs teach our COPD patients.

What I want COPD patients to know

Proper inhaler technique

Many people with COPD use inhalers. Inhalers allow you to inhale respiratory medicine. This medicine is meant to open your lungs and keep them open long-term.

Proper inhaler technique can assure the medicine gets deep into your lungs where it is needed. I work with patients to ensure they use the proper inhaler techniques.

Writing an article on this topic is challenging because there are so many inhalers. If you want to ensure you are using the proper inhaler technique, it is a good idea to bring your inhalers to your doctor's appointments.

Your doctor or nurse can watch you to ensure you are using it properly. You can also talk to your pharmacist, who should also be able to make sure you are using it properly.

Using a spacer

There are certain inhalers called metered dose inhalers (MDIs). The albuterol (Ventolin, ProAir) inhaler is a good example of an MDI.

It can be considered proper technique to use an MDI without a spacer. However, spacers help get the medicine even deeper into your lungs.

I usually give all my patients with MDIs a spacer. And I teach how to use them with their MDI correctly.

One of my colleagues wrote a great article on this topic that you can read here.

Acappella usage

Many people with COPD have trouble bringing up secretions. And these secretions can become thick and stick inside the airway to make breathing more difficult.

Acappella's are small, hand-held devices that you blow into. This creates vibrations that rattle your airways and knocks off thick secretions.

Then you can easily cough them up. So, these are great devices for removing secretions and keeping your airways open.

I talk about acapella usage in my post here.

Oxygen therapy education

Many of my COPD patients require more oxygen than in the air around us. The most common way of inhaling oxygen is by wearing a nasal cannula.

I have found that most people with COPD only need low flows, such as 2-3 LPM. This is all that is needed to make sure your body is getting the oxygen that it needs.

I teach about oxygen safety

You must be careful about certain things if you have oxygen at home. While oxygen does not burn, it does create an environment that enhances a flame.

So, you will want to ensure you do not smoke while wearing your oxygen. You also want to stay away from flames, such as when cooking.

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