This list was compiled on March 14 by a patient with COPD, who sometimes requires oxygen, and a retired pulmonary physician who is not associated with the COPD Foundation. Follow the current recommendations of the CDC and your local health authorities. This list extends those general recommendations for people with COPD.
COPD, asthma, bronchiectasis, pulmonary fibrosis, and congestive heart failure (CHF) are "comorbid conditions" which make death from a coronavirus (or influenza infection) much more likely. Those of you with a history of serious COPD exacerbations have about twice the risk of another one if you get a viral upper respiratory infection. There have been shortages of ICU beds and mechanical ventilators for patients experiencing respiratory failure in Italy. This could also happen in some North American communities.
Stay hydrated. Keep 1 and 3 gallon bottles full of drinking water. If your urine becomes more yellow than usual, you need to drink more water.
If you don't have a pulse oximeter, ask someone to buy one for you (about $30). Write down your SpO2 and pulse at least once per day. If you become (more) short of breath and your SpO2 falls more than 4% below your usual value (oxygen desaturation), you may be experiencing an exacerbation.Follow the action plan given to you by the pulmonary specialist responsible for your care, and communicate with her.
Note that pulse oximeters can produce falsely low values. If your SpO2 is lower than usual, move the sensor to a finger on your other hand. The higher SpO2 value is more accurate. Atrial fibrillation (aka a-fib) also produces inaccurate SpO2 values.
If you don't have a thermometer, ask someone to purchase one for you. Measure your temperature twice per day. If you develop a fever with shortness of breath (and more coughing than usual), you may be developing pneumonia, and should seek medical attention quickly.
Stop smoking now, at least for a few weeks until the coronavirus and influenza virus risks are past. Ask someone to purchase two months worth of nicotine gum and/or patches to enable you to stop smoking cigarettes. Smoke kills the cilia in your airways which clear infectious particles.
Even before coronavirus become apparent in your community, practice "social isolation." Stay six feet away from others (to avoid their cough particles). Avoid public transportation. Don't go to work. Avoid meetings.
The decision to go to an emergency room is difficult, so discuss it with your health care provider. Avoid waiting in an ER or clinic. (Wait in your vehicle and ask the staff to send you a message when the doctor is ready to see you.) Keep a back-up USB battery charged for your smartphone (to communicate with others if you lose electricity).
Ask someone else to stock your pantry with 2-4 weeks of food. Ask the grocery store to deliver your food. Continue to eat a healthy diet. Avoid weight loss (which makes you more vulnerable to infections).
Sanitize the surfaces of items brought into your home (food, mail, packages, medication bottles, new inhalers, oxygen bottles, etc).
Obtain at least an extra 30 day supply of your medications. Faithfully take your COPD or asthma inhaled medication, as prescribed.
Obtain the medications that your doctor wants you to start when you experience an exacerbation (usually a one to two week supply of an antibiotic and perhaps prednisone).
If you rely on an oxygen concentrator that plugs into the wall, ask the electric company if they can provide a backup generator for your apartment or house. If you rely on a portable oxygen concentrator (POC), consider quickly purchasing extra batteries and keep them charged.
If the people with whom you live become infected by the coronavirus or influenza, it is highly likely that they will infect you. Discuss that fact with them (which may prompt them to be more careful).