I decided to write this post after I started experiencing a worsening of my symptoms for no apparent reason on Friday night; driving my car to the chip shop. I knew instinctively that a bad day was on the way! Anyone who has stage three or four COPD will be familiar with these days. You feel like there is just not enough air to go round and everything takes so much more effort and it’s exhausting.
Like many people, when I was first diagnosed with COPD it was already quite severe and these days were very frequent and puzzling to me. Back then I used to get many more bad days than good days. Since I have adjusted my life a bit I do not have so many but when I do it always annoys and frustrates me. I run through all the reasons in my head why this day has come on me, such as, am I starting with a virus, have I eaten, drank something too sugary, is the air pressure low, that can cause poor oxygen in the atmosphere or have I been in contact with any allergens, maybe I have done too much. The answer isn’t always obvious sometimes there is no reason and any plans I have made for a shopping trip, visiting friends etc has to be put on hold. More frustrating, is my immediate family don’t seem to understand this anomaly at all. I’m sure they think I am malingering at times – you know, as if I really enjoy those days not being able to breath? They make comments like you are always breathless what’s the difference or your always ill as if it’s just another day! Then I try to explain yes, but its the degree of breathlessness! It is almost impossible to explain it.
So what do I do about it? Well, I find a lot of patience comes in handy especially if this day or days, I forgot to mention it can last for a couple of days, falls on a cleaning day or a shopping day or a day I had plans or especially if someone else is relying on me, (that can be tricky). Firstly, I hunt out my emergency antibiotics and steroids and try to decide if they will be needed. I take my peak flow and measure my oxygen levels, am I wheezing more? This usually tells me if steroids are needed and if I start coughing up gunk then there may be an infection on the way so I add on the antibiotics. If it is an infection, then it will turn into as full blown exacerbation and won’t be gone in a day or two. But if as often is the case it’s nothing like that then I will get my nebuliser out and make myself comfortable on the settee and put catch up TV on and have a nice cup of tea (thats if I am well enough to make one). This is where exercising has really come to benefit me. These mini flare ups are not as bad when they come and I am able to get my food and drinks. Whereas in the past pre exercise me, well, I went for hours without even having a cup of tea and these mini flare ups could go on for longer and the chance of them developing into an infection were higher. Keeping fit and eating nutritious food is really important to keep in control of your symptoms. Below is a video where a respiratory nurse explains about keeping a journal helps.