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10 More Things Not to Say to Someone Living With COPD

Last updated: January 2023

Four years ago, I wrote  a post called “Things Not To Say To Someone Living With COPD.” I received many great responses to that post.

You shared your ideas. I collected them to write this sequel to my previous post eventually.

When people say inappropriate things, they may naturally respond by ignoring them. When people offer unsolicited advice, a natural response may be to give them an awkward stare or to mouth something like, "What the!"

Although, perhaps a better response is to take advantage of the moment to educate them as best you can. So, I will follow each of the following "things not to say" with what may be a good response for you to try.

What not to say to someone with COPD

That said, here are ten more things not to say to someone living with COPD.

  1. “Your hands are trembling; you must be nervous.” No, my hands are trembling because of all the medicines I take so I can breathe.
  2. "Sorry, I forgot you had COPD."  How could you forget I have COPD? I've talked to you about it many times. You see my daily struggles. How could you forget?
  3. "You are just having a panic attack."  No, I feel this way because I can't breathe. Imagine how you would feel if you couldn't breathe.
  4. "So does this mean you never get better?" As noted above, sometimes, it might be best to ignore a comment, and this is one of them. The term "chronic" is in the name of the disease. Chronic means that it is always there. That said, most people with COPD have good days and bad days.
  5. "Do you have that disease that makes you cough a little bit?" I can't think of a good response for this one.
  6. “You don’t look sick.” This one I am guilty of saying myself. I met one of my COPD friends and said, "You are looking good today!" She just looked at me funny I got the hint. She may have looked fine. But, inside, she was dealing with the day-to-day struggles of having COPD. I should have respected that by not making such silly comments.
  7. You are fine. Just wait it out!” Waiting it out can make your symptoms worse. As soon as symptoms are felt, a person with COPD must act quickly and swiftly to prevent it from worsening. The sooner symptoms are treated, the better.
  8. “Just take some cough syrup, and you’ll be fine.” Unsolicited advice is not always warranted. No, the treatment for treating COPD is more complex than just consuming a teaspoon of syrup. It would be nice if it were that easy, but it's not .
  9. “What would you need a wheelchair for?” Or “What would you need a handicap sticker for?”  It takes a lot of energy to breathe when you have COPD, especially severe COPD. While it's great that we are trying to stay active, it's sometimes a good idea to conserve energy by riding in a wheelchair or parking as close as we can to our destination.
  10. “You did not do anything today. Why would you feel so tired?” I'm tired because my body is working overtime to keep me breathing. I'm tired because my body is working overtime to keep my oxygen levels normal.

What about you? Have you heard comments like these? How did you respond?

Likewise, if you have things not to say to add to this list, please help us add to this list. Feel free to leave your response in the comments below.

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