What can you do if you have an early stage of asthmatic bronchitis,
chronic bronchitis, or emphysema? Certainly you should change any behavior
that can make it worse. The single most important thing you can do for
yourself is to stop smoking. In fact, if you don’t stop smoking, none of
your other efforts will be as effective as they could be, and your COPD
will get worse.
Stopping smoking is a complex matter. If you decide that you want to
quit, no matter what, you will succeed. People with COPD and emphysema are
often very addicted to the nicotine in tobacco. Nicotine replacement
products are available to help deal with the uncomfortable symptoms of
nicotine withdrawal that many patients experience when they try to quit
smoking. Nicotine gum, nicotine patches, and nicotine lozenges are
available at drug stores without a prescription. Nicotine nasal spray and
nicotine vapor inhalers that work like a cigarette are available by
prescription. An antidepressant drug called bupropion (ZybanŽ), can help
you stop smoking.
You must decide to quit and pick a specific quit date. Quit completely
all at once (“cold turkey”). Start nicotine replacement on your quit date.
If your doctor prescribes ZybanŽ, it should be started two weeks before
your quit date. ZybanŽ can be used along with nicotine replacement.
If you fail, wait a week or so. Don’t get discouraged. Try again. Many
heavily addicted smokers succeed after several attempts to quit smoking.
Quitting is the most important thing you can do for your health and for
the prevention of emphysema. In addition, you will decrease your risk for
having a heart attack, a stroke, or developing lung cancer.
Breathing CLean Air
As a COPD patient, you need clean air. Therefore, you should also avoid
being around smokers and fume-laden air. During days of fog or smog, try
to stay indoors with windows closed. If possible, fumeless appliances
should be used for heating.
Polluted air also can irritate your breathing passages. Try not to go
out when the air quality is rated poor. But if you cannot avoid excessive
air pollution, protecting your mouth and nose with a mask may improve your
You should see your doctor on a regular basis to have a
physical and to have your lungs checked with spirometry, especially if you
have a chest cold or any time you cough up excess mucus. It is also
important to guard against catching the flu by getting an influenza
vaccine each fall, well before winter starts. A pneumonia vaccine should
also be given to anyone over age 50, and to all persons with COPD.
You should see your doctor on a regular basis to have a physical and to
have your lungs checked with spirometry, especially if you have a chest
cold or any time you cough up excess mucus. It is also important to guard
against catching the flu by getting an influenza vaccine each fall, well
before winter starts. A pneumonia vaccine should also be given to anyone
over age 50, and to all persons with COPD.
There are many different
types of treatments that can help you cope with a chronic lung disease and
live your life to the fullest.
Clearing Your Lungs
Coughing has an important “cleaning action” and is something you should
do every morning and evening. You must learn to cough in such a way that
you can clear your lungs of excess mucus with two or three coughs. There
are many ways to do this. Your doctor will teach you the way to cough that
is best for your particular problem or he/she may refer you to a
respiratory therapist who can help you.
As an aid to this cleaning, your doctor might recommend breathing moist
or humid air, and drinking plenty of fluids every day. This helps to thin
out the mucus so that you can cough it up more easily.
Your doctor might also recommend inhaled bronchodilating drugs or
antiinflammatory drugs that open your airways and help increase the normal
flow of mucus out of your lungs. A respiratory therapist can help you
learn how to use the devices that deliver these medications.