Whatever stage your respiratory disease may be at, preventing flare-ups is highly important to ensure you stay as healthy as possible and to keep your breathing as easy as possible. This means you need to be aware of the triggers and eliminating any exposure to cigarette smoke, fire smoke, dust, chemicals, excessive wind and pollution. Breathing can also be difficult at temperatures around or below freezing, above 90 degrees F, or on days with high humidity, ozone levels or pollen counts.
Many patients have a component of asthma and some prefer warm, dry climates whereas others may prefer more humid environments.
Extreme hot or cold conditions can put stress on the entire body. In order to maintain a constant body temperature, you exert additional energy to warm or cool it down. This additional energy requirement also increases the amount of oxygen that your body is using. Breathing hot or cold air can also have a drying or irritating effect on the airway causing bronchospasm (contraction of the smooth muscle that surrounds the airway). This decreases the size of the airway and makes it more difficult to get the air in and out of the lung, increasing shortness of breath.
In general most patients find that they prefer minimal humidity levels of about 40%. This is also true of indoor humidity levels which can be difficult to maintain throughout the year, if it is a hot summer or a cold winter with the heating on. You can purchase a humidifier that works with your heating system or independent units for single rooms. De-humidifiers can also be purchased to help lower the humidity in certain rooms.
High indoor humidity is often also the source of mould growth in the home which is another trigger, as well as an increase in common indoor air pollutants like dust mites, cockroaches, bacteria and viruses. Also as humidity increases, the density of the air increases. This more dense air creates more resistance to airflow in the airway, resulting in an increased work of breathing (i.e. more shortness of breath).
Look out for common signs of high humidity:
• flooding or rainwater leaks from the roof or basement/crawl space
• poorly connected pipes or leaky pipes under sinks or in showers
• carpet that remains damp
• poorly ventilated bathrooms and kitchens
• condensation build-up from humidifiers and dehumidifiers, air conditioners, and drip pans under refrigerators/freezers
Here are some helpful pointers for when it is hot, although many are applicable to other weather conditions as well:
1. Drink plenty of fluids, fairly obvious for Australians, but please take into account if you have a fluid restriction.
2. Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
3. Plan your activities carefully. Try to organise your activities or exercise for the coolest times of the day – early in the morning, or in the evening. When driving, park in shady areas if possible, and choose places to go that are air conditioned. Place sun protectors in your car when it is parked.
4. Keep cool, indoors. Use your air-conditioner if you have one and remember you do not need it to be freezing cold. A second benefit of the air conditioner is that it removes a great deal of humidity from the air as it cools it. If an air conditioner is not available, use fans and open windows to circulate the air during hot days. Special programmes are available in many places.
5. Use the buddy system. This means making sure that someone contacts you at least twice a day to check that you are OK.
6. Avoid rigorous exercise or excess activity.
7. Take your medications as directed.
8. Pay attention to weather reports.
References: www.healthline.com and http://lungfoundation.com and https://rotech.com
Holidays can be the experience of a lifetime but they can also be expensive and stressful to organise. If you are older, suffer a disability or chronic disease then you may have the additional expense of insurance, organising medical equipment or oxygen and perhaps having to pay more in order to have suitable accommodation. Swapping homes with another person in the country you want to vacate in could be the answer.
If they have similar circumstances then their home will be already adapted or suitable for your needs. It will feel more homely than a hotel room or apartment. The owner will have contacts for reliable services you may need whilst on your stay and have local knowledge and suggestions for places to visit. Most of all, you will save a lot of money on accommodation and can either save that money or spend it to do extra special things on your holiday that you may otherwise be ill-afford to have done.
Because you’re both swapping homes then both parties are in the same boat when it comes to safety and ensuring that your home is looked after. You can exchange concerns and wishes prior to the exchange and only confirm the exchange once you are happy to do so. There is also the support from the company that you do it through.
Some people swap for just a week or two, or some go on longer holidays for a few months and live in a different home in different countries and travel around the world. You may stay 2 weeks in Dubai, 2 weeks in Croatia a week in Spain and another in France, the world is you oyster. All you need to do is find a home exchange partner in each country that is available around the time of your holiday. There are members that have second homes or holiday homes with a lot of availability.
All you need to do is join, list your property, search for members’ homes that you’re interested in staying in, communicate all your needs and arrangements and then enjoy a fabulous holiday!
If you’re worried about arranging medical equipment or oxygen if you wish to travel from place to place then don’t be, there are global companies that can provide you continuous support for the whole duration of your holiday even across different countries.
Home Exchanges are becoming increasingly popular as the cheapest and best way to enjoy your holiday!
References: www.homeexchange.com and www.guardianhomeexchange.co.uk and www.oxygenworldwide.com
The summer and holiday season is only round the corner, looking forward to swimming in the villa pool or in the sea. For those suffering with lung disorders requiring oxygen therapy this may seem like a fantasy, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you have lung problems swimming could be the perfect exercise for you. As your body is floating it’s less strenuous on your breathing and can help to improve your fitness and breathing. It’s so beneficial that it even helps people who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People with COPD have a decreased lung capacity and get less oxygen with every breath than healthy people; therefore they tire out more quickly with just regular activities like walking or vacuuming. But those who exercise in a pool or swim lightly often end up with less breathlessness and can walk longer on land because of their lungs becoming stronger. It is a form of exercise that you can control, you can stop and start when you wish and go at a speed that suits you.
If you swim regularly at a private pool to improve your confidence and fitness then swimming on holiday won’t be an issue and you can enjoy your holiday more.
You may think that it is impossible to combine oxygen therapy and swimming but there are those that have managed it with some handy hints to share:
• Go to the swimming pool at a quiet time or when there is a slow lane available. Sometimes the swimming pool offers lessons or times for disabled or poor swimmers.
• You can have your POC at the side of the pool ready to use if you feel short of breath.
• Start off slow and don’t push yourself too hard or fast. It will take time to build up your lung strength and fitness.
• You can get extra tubing to use with your cylinder and ask someone to walk alongside you in the pool to carry your cylinder as you do laps. You can ask your provider for spare tubing and cannula that you can use as a spare ‘swimming set’. Check with the pool staff first to ensure they don’t mind you doing this.
• You can walk to and from the pool to increase your exercise and use your oxygen on the way there and on the way home and have it by the pool, so if necessary you can use it after each lap. As your fitness improves you will hopefully use it less and less.
• You can get an inflatable cushion and have your oxygen machine floating alongside you as you swim if you need oxygen constantly. Many find they can still use it in shallow and calm sea water too so you can swim in the sea on your holiday.
• If you’re worried about the warmth and humidity of an indoor pool severely affecting your breathing you can go and visit and sit by the poolside with your oxygen to ‘test the waters’ first.
• There may be an option for you to use your rehab pool at the hospital for a while so that you can get used to swimming in a more controlled environment which will help with your confidence before venturing to a public pool, ask your doctor about options.
• There are water-proof cases that you can buy for your oxygen cylinder so that you can have it in the water with you.
• Start off slowly with just floating, walking around and exercises before moving onto short bursts of swimming and then onto laps. Do what you’re comfortable with doing and progress at your own speed.
• Please note: Some indoor pools with water that contain a high level of chlorine and have bad ventilation might do you lungs more harm than good.
Obviously it depends upon the stage and severity of your lung condition and your reliability upon your oxygen and which equipment you use but there are options and ways around it. For most people they are able to take up swimming using these handy hints and find that after a period of time their fitness improves both in the water and on land and they become less reliant upon their oxygen. Also it means that you can then swim on holiday and enjoy the sun, sea and sand more!
If you require oxygen still on holiday whilst swimming or just want to have a back-up POC nearby on the shore or by the pool side then there are global oxygen supply companies that can supply these for you whilst you are on holiday in whichever country you’d like to visit.
References: www.healthunlocked.com and http://copdathlete.com
Portable oxygen concentrators have started a revolution in the medical oxygen industry, with their use having sky-rocketed over the last five-10 years. Industry experts are optimistic about the future of portable oxygen and that patients will be able to get hold of even better equipment in the future to make their lives as close to normal as technology can allow.
Portable oxygen technology is ever-evolving and improving, with POCs at the heart of it. This is driven by the increasing demand for these devices which in turn has been driven by an increase in diagnosed sufferers requiring oxygen therapy, improved availability and increased affordability. These factors are constantly driving down costs for the industry, allowing them to reinvest to improve devices whose demand then continues to help grow the industry and improve it. However it seems these advancements will come with a little give and take.
Patients and doctors want smaller, lighter, quieter devices that also have a higher oxygen output and a longer battery life. The providers also want in addition more durability, reliability and all at a lower cost.
As with other technologies if you move in one direction to improve a singular feature it often has an negative impact on another and getting the balance is difficult.
The patient is the final target audience and their requirement for freedom will be the ultimate guidance for the future of oxygen technology. They require the freedom to easily fly, drive or boat and do daily activities without worrying about running out of oxygen. Freedom also comes from not waiting on deliveries from the oxygen supplier and all this provides patients with the chance to feel normal again.
A main inhibiting factor on their advancement is the highly competitive nature that the industry has evolved into. This has led to providers dramatically lowering prices in order to maintain market share, which is highly beneficial to the patient however it leaves less money available for re-investment into research to drive improvements. With the steep increasing trend of COPD diagnosis around the world it seems there will be an ever-increasing amount of patients and therefore providers seeking to purchase POC’s which will then still allow for re-investment.
It is hoped that the units will become smaller and lighter with increased battery life which is very important as the current units are not as portal as they could be for end-stage COPD patients.
It is agreed that ‘POCs are still in their genesis’ but the ultimate goal is so that the POC is also the primary oxygen concentrator, so you would only need the one unit.
Making something increasingly portable also brings along other problems and the unit then needs to be made increasingly durable and resistant to banging and dropping and other associated hazards. Replacing a bolt or armrest on a wheelchair is a lot easier and less of an inconvenience to the user than replacing a part in a POC.
Future oxygen technologies will continue to be focused on medically accurate and improved oxygen therapy and delivery/recycling methods but also incorporate much more software and intelligence in the design and lighter weight models. In order for companies to drive down costs more of a focus may also be put on patient maintenance and repair so that parts can be cleaned or replaced easily by the patient and not having to send the unit back and forth to the manufacturer.
Cigarettes on their own are the leading cause of house fires, but add to this the risk of oxygen being stored in the home and the danger dramatically increases.
Over the last few years there have been a staggering number of reports of people on home oxygen therapy being admitted to hospital with facial burns, eyebrows and hair burned off, death, smoke inhalation injuries and fire damage to their homes in the thousands of pounds. These occurred because they or a friend/family member were smoking whilst the patient’s oxygen equipment was in use.
However, do not interpret this to mean that oxygen therapy is something to be afraid of, it just needs to be respected.
General Advice when using oxygen equipment:
• If you’re on oxygen, DO NOT smoke.
• If you live with or visit someone on oxygen, DO NOT smoke around them.
• Stay away from open flames, sparks, and gas (including gas stoves).
• Turn the oxygen off while not in use.
• Avoid petroleum-based products.
• Do not use aerosol sprays nearby.
• Comply with all safety instructions provided by your home medical equipment company.
• Keep your oxygen concentrator in a well-ventilated area.
• Never allow the tubing, cannula, or mask to be covered, as it can result in a build-up of concentrated oxygen.
• Keep the name and number of your home medical equipment provider in a prominent spot for reference.
• Post a sign stating ‘DANGER: No Smoking-Oxygen in Use’ for the benefit of engineers or visitors.
There are also health risks associated with smoking while on oxygen therapy. Smoking is the most common cause of many medical conditions associated with the requirement of oxygen therapy. Smoking got you here therefore it is highly recommended that you put as much effort as possible into trying to give up this harmful addiction, or to at least cut down. Smoking more will just continue to damage your lungs and increase the deterioration of your respiratory capability and make you increasingly more dependent upon supplemental oxygen. Using supplemental oxygen can improve your health and improve your medical condition but if you smoke you are hampering the possible medical benefits of the treatment.
There should be a respectful balance between your own lifestyle choices, your medical needs and the safety of yourself and others around you. Be aware of the dangers and make sure you take all possible safety precautions.
References: http://lambertshc.com and http://scienceblogs.com
Almost every medical treatment has risks and side effects to it, which vary in degree from person to person. The benefit of oxygen therapy is that it is not a foreign drug, we naturally use it everyday and therefore the only side effects will be due to the administration of it or because of the volume of oxygen being inhaled, which as a result dramatically reduces side effects when compared to other medical treatments. There is also the safety aspect of storing and using oxygen as it is highly combustable but as long as you follow the simple common sense safety advice from your provider you will be very safe.
The side effects may include a dry or bloody nose, skin irritation from the nasal cannula or face mask, fatigue, tiredness and morning headaches. Some people only suffer side effects initially upon first use and then they disappear however if these problems persist then all you need to do is to inform your doctor and provider. Depending upon the problems all your doctor may need to do is to alter the oxygen flow rate or length of time you’re using the equipment.
If nose dryness is a problem then you may just require an additional nasal spray or to have a humidifier attached to your equipment to reduce the dryness effect of the oxygen.
If you experience irritation from the mask or cannula then your provider can try other devices that may fit you better and can recommend over-the-counter gels and devices designed to help lessen skin irritation.
If you use transtracheal oxygen therapy then complications can potentially be a bit more serious due to the more invasive way that the oxygen is delivered via a tube inserted into your windpipe a the front of your neck. You may develop mucus balls which can cause coughing and clog the windpipe, infection and injury to the windpipe. However as long as you follow the advice in the proper medical care and correct handling of the tube then this greatly reduces the risk of complications. Such as keeping it clean and to use suction to remove any build-up.
The majority of users find that they experience a little irritation and dryness which can be easily resolved. Their testimonials are clear in saying that the benefits of oxygen therapy such as improved quality of life, improved mobility and social interaction and longevity of life far outweigh the inconvenience of a few side effects.
References: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov and http://www.livestrong.com
A study in mice has suggested that by doing something as simple as breathing in extra oxygen may provide our immune cells with an extra boost to fight cancer.
The immune system often can spot and destroy abnormal cells before they grow into cancer. Normally cancer tumour cells put up defences in order to block our immune system from attacking them. One way they do this is because tumours can grow so rapidly that they outpace their blood supply, creating a low-oxygen environment. By maintaining low oxygen levels inside the tumour, this can increase the production of a molecule that blocks the tumour fighters that our immune system produces, called T cells. Lots of research is under way to develop drugs that could block the production of this molecule adenosine, but researchers at North Eastern University wondered whether adding oxygen to tumours could strip away that defence. So they put mice with lung tumours into chambers that let them breathe oxygen doses mimicking supplemental oxygen therapy doses.
The results showed that tumours shrank more in the high-oxygen group, and even more so when researchers also injected the mice with doses of extra T cells. With the extra oxygen, “you remove the brake pedal” that cancer can put on tumour-fighting immune cells, said Michail Sitkovsky, director of the New England Inflammation and Tissue Protection Institute at North Eastern University, who led the work. The extra oxygen changed the tumour’s environment so that immune cells could get inside and do their jobs.
The study has exciting potential but obviously it must be tested in people first. If it works then this supplemental oxygen approach could be utilised to work in conjunction with other cancer therapies to aid in the battle against cancer.
References: http://www.usnews.com and http://blackburnnews.com