A Holiday Message from the COPD Coach

Living with COPD can present some challenges, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate the holidays in a meaningful and memorable fashion with a little common sense and adequate preparation. Since the thought of celebrating holidays may seem daunting, as our gift to all of our readers, here are some tips to celebrate and ring in the new year in style.

What are your priorities?
We are often deluged with invitations to parties or events this time of year. It is not always possible to accept each and every invitation or attend each event. This is where we have to accept some limitations. There is no shame in explaining to our family and friends that too much activity in a short period of time can be extremely taxing for us. Decide before hand which events would hold the most meaning for you, and plan to attend only those events

Holidays Don’t overdo at the events you attend!
You can still be the life of the party, without expending too much energy. If you feel the need to contribute, make sure it can be done comfortably (preferably sitting down). If attending something like a concert or church service, make sure you can park close and have convenient seating. If hosting an event, rely on family members and friends to do the “heavy lifting.” Potluck dinners are never a bad idea and allow your friends the opportunity to feel like they are contributing to the party. Give yourself plenty of time to get ready, travel, and arrive at the venue early. Rushing will just cause you to get out of breath more quickly, and anxiety will hurt your breathing! Make sure you are not sitting near an area with fumes, strong scents or stale air – or especially near a fireplace!

Limit your shopping to what’s absolutely necessary.
As a person with COPD, it is never advisable to be out among large groups of people, especially during flu season. Thankfully, we are in the age of the internet where we can do much of our shopping from the comfort and safety of our home! Many of the largest retailers have excellent websites featuring many of the items they carry in their stores that can be easily purchased, usually with free shipping! The sites also offer an easy returns and also gift certificates.

Pull, don’t carry!
If you do decide to venture out to the mall or supercenter, use a cart! It gives you something to lean on and in some cases a place to put your portable oxygen (make sure you clean the handles of the cart with an antibacterial cleaner before using). Make a list before you go so you spend the least amount of time in the store and don’t have to walk more than necessary.

Watch what you eat!
Eating too much can worsen your breathing. Pace yourself! Eat small portions so you don’t feel bloated.

Dress appropriately!
Cold weather and COPD are not usually a good combination, so dress warmly for both the expected outdoor temperatures and the indoor ones. If you use supplemental oxygen make sure that you keep your oxygen hose under a layer of clothing so that the air you breathe will be warmer. Also, consider a scarf or facemask to make breathing colder air easier!

Have the tools you need.
If you use supplemental oxygen, make sure that you have an adequate supply and keep monitoring it throughout the evening. If you need to take certain medications, make sure that you have them with you and that you take them at your scheduled time. If you require carrying an emergency inhaler, make sure you keep it in a convenient location.

Know when you have had enough!
If you start to feel overwhelmed or fatigued don’t be afraid to make your excuses and leave. If you allow yourself to overdo, you will weaken your body making it susceptible to illness and might cause you to have to take down time to recover. Don’t feel guilty about calling it a night. The people who know you will be appreciative that you made the effort to attend in the first place!

To many, these suggestions may seem like common sense, but often times our holiday spirit will cause us to toss caution to the wind! Because we have breathing problems does not mean that we can’t experience the joy that comes with sharing the holidays with those we love. The Coaches Corner staff wishes you all a joyous and safe holiday season and a healthy and happy New Year!

–The COPD Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice. If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at coachescorner@copdfoundation.org. We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.


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  • Lots of good advice there, thank you. Here in England winter time is the worst time of year for people prone to chest infections. It's cold, often damp, and kiddies for some reason become more affectionate when they have runny noses and germs to share...
    Big groups ofpeople mean more germs floating about. I always have at least two chest infections during this time, and breathing is always difficult in the cold air. A mask or scarf certainly helps keep the air warm. Also making sure you're stocked up on antibiotics, prednisolone and nebules if you use a nebuliser.
    I wish all my Colonial COPD cousins reasonable health, good friends and family and a wonderful Christmas this year.
  • These are very good tips to keep in mind as we move into the Holiday Season. Thank you for posting these.
  • These are good for us all to remember, with or without COPD! Thanks for the reminders. I often think that I have to do everything for the holidays, and giving myself permission to step back a bit is "freeing." My kids are not going to be home for Christmas this year, and my family lives far away, so I have decided to really limit my normal "crazy" decorating. I was anxious at first, but it is giving me permission to focus on other things, and plan for a trip north to visit my family. May your holidays be merry, safe and healthy!
  • This is such good advice. I think that the person who does well with their COPD is often the personality that is competitive with a "can do" attitude. This personality finds it hard to take second place and thus not go all out with the decorations and invitations.