How to Conserve Energy When You Have COPD

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Routine activities, such as bathing, grooming, and dressing, can take their toll on your energy if you have moderate or severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But planning ahead and using some simple energy-conserving techniques can help you get through these tasks more quickly and with less effort. Two key principles to keep in mind: Plan to carry out these activities when you’re feeling most energetic, and gather all the supplies you will need before you start.

For other useful advice, see the additional tips below. You may also want to ask your doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist. She or he can show you additional interventions that can help you conserve energy during your other daily activities.

Bathing

  • Instead of standing in the shower, use a bath stool or take baths.
  • Because excess humidity can make it tougher to breathe, use warm water rather than hot, leave the bathroom door open, turn on exhaust fans and open a window whenever possible.
  • If washing your hair is difficult, ask someone else to do it for you.
  • Use a long-handled brush or sponge so you won’t need to reach to wash your back and feet.
  • If you rely on oxygen, you can still use it while in the tub or shower-just drape the tube over the shower rod or side of the tub. (It’s safe to remove the nasal cannula briefly while washing your face.)
  • Dry off by wearing a long terry cloth robe and blotting rather than using a towel to rub yourself dry- it takes less effort.

Grooming

  • Choose a simple hairstyle that doesn’t require extensive blow drying or styling.
  • Conserve energy by sitting in front of a low mirror when shaving or applying makeup, rather than standing bent over the bathroom sink.
  • Avoid using products that are aerosolized or heavily scented, as they may irritate your lungs. For example, most deodorants are available in roll-on or solid formulations, and most brands offer fragrance-free or unscented options.
  • Perfumes and colognes may also make it more difficult for you to breathe, so avoid using these products.

Dressing

  • Keep your clothes-especially things that you wear frequently-in places that don’t require you to bend or reach.
  • If you’re most energetic in the evenings, plan ahead and lay out clothes for the next day the night before.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing that can make breathing difficult. For example, men can wear suspenders instead of belts, and women can wear camisoles or sports bras instead of regular bras.
  • Don’t wear socks or stockings with elastic bands, since they can restrict circulation. (Support hosiery recommended by your doctor is the exception.)
  • Slip-on shoes mean you don’t have to bend over to tie shoelaces. A long shoehorn (12 to 18 inches) can also make it easier to put shoes on.
  • To conserve energy, stay seated as long as possible while dressing, and dress your lower half first, as it is usually more difficult. Putting your underwear inside your pants and pulling both on together may be helpful as well.