I recently received an email from a gentleman who has both COPD and lung cancer. He was concerned about his family not really understanding the disease and how airway irritants may affect his condition. Take a look at what he had to say:
I have COPD and also lung cancer (5 yr with no recurrence.) My friends and family do not understand my need for air conditioning, the effects of perfume, men's toiletries, smoking around me and fumes from cleaning products. Please print some guidelines in STRONG LANGUAGE. Maybe they and others will be more considerate. Hope you can help.
COPD is a lung disease that is caused primarily by airway irritants. The main culprit behind the disease is smoking, but, other airway irritants such as long-term exposure to air pollution, secondhand smoke, and occupational exposure to harsh chemicals, dust or fumes, can also lead to a COPD diagnosis.
Once a person has the disease, the lungs are already damaged. Further exposure to airway irritants only damages them more, and, depending upon the degree and length of time of the exposure, could possibly lead to a further decline in lung function.
If you have a family member who has COPD, here are some guidelines to follow:
- Avoid smoking inside the home. If you must smoke, do so outside. Secondhand smoke may lead to further damage to the lungs of someone who has COPD and third-hand smoke lingers on furniture, clothing and many other items which is bad for everyone, particularly children.
- Allow for a fan or air conditioner to run, if possible. People with COPD may find that a fan blowing directly on their face, or an air conditioner running continuously, helps them to breathe better. If this is the case, try setting the thermostat at a comfortable temperature for all. If you find you are still uncomfortable with a cooler environment, bundle up while inside with extra blankets or a sweater.
- Do not wear heavy scented perfumes or aftershaves around your loved one. This can irritate the lungs and exacerbate his or her COPD symptoms.
- Use natural cleaning products to clean your home, instead of harsh chemicals. If you must use harsh chemicals to clean, forewarn your loved one and make sure the home is properly ventilated.
- Improve the quality of the air inside your home. Because people with COPD spend a great deal of time indoors, it is important that the air they breathe is clean. Check out these 10 tips to improve your indoor air for some handy suggestions.
I hope this helps our reader and other people who have similar concerns. That said, what do you want friends and family to know about COPD? Share your story.