Self-help measures to alleviate obstructive disease

Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can learn to perform a variety of self-help measures that may help improve their symptoms and their ability to participate in everyday activities. Photo: hellodoctor.

Common methods for mobilising and removing secretions include:

Postural drainage: This helps to remove secretions from the airways. The patient lies in a position that allows gravity to aid in draining different parts of the lung. This is often done after the patient inhales an aerosol medication. The basic position involves the patient lying on the bed with his chest and head over the side and the forearms resting on the floor.

Chest percussion: This technique involves lightly clapping the back and chest, and may help to loosen thick secretions.

Coughing and deep breathing: These techniques may aid the patient in bringing up secretions.

Aerosol treatments: These treatments may involve solutions of saline, often mixed with a bronchodilator, which is then inhaled as an aerosol. The aerosols thin and loosen secretions. A treatment normally takes 10 to 15 minutes, and is given three or four times a day.

Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can learn to perform a variety of self-help measures that may help improve their symptoms and their ability to participate in everyday activities.

These measures include:

• Avoiding any exposure to dusts and fumes.

• Avoiding air pollution, including the cigarette smoke of others.

• Avoiding other people who have infections like the cold or flu. Get a pneumonia vaccination and a yearly flu shot.

• Drinking plenty of fluids. This helps to loosen respiratory secretions so they can be brought up more easily through coughing.

• Avoiding extreme temperatures of heat or cold. Also avoiding high altitudes. Special precautions can be taken that may enable the emphysema patient to fly on a plane.

• Maintaining adequate nutritional intake. Normally a high protein diet taken in many small feedings is recommended.

Many patients are interested in whether any alternative treatments for emphysema are available. Some practitioners recommend supplements of antioxidant nutrients. There have also been some studies indicating a correlation between a low vitamin A levels and COPD, with suggestions that supplements of vitamin A might be beneficial. Aroma therapists have used essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, pine, and rosemary to help relieve nasal congestion and make breathing easier.

The herb elecampane may act as an expectorant to help patients clear mucus from the lungs. The patient should discuss these remedies with their healthcare practitioner prior to trying them, as some may interact with the more traditional treatments that are already being used. Next week more on exercises for patients with COPD.

Lizel Britz 072 437 7707

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