Living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can be challenging, but with the right support and knowledge, you can significantly improve your quality of life. Your PharmaChoice pharmacist is your trusted partner in managing this chronic respiratory condition. In this article, we will explore how your pharmacist can help you manage COPD effectively and offer some practical tips for staying healthy, especially during the cold winter months.
COPD is a chronic respiratory condition that primarily affects the lungs, causing airway limitation and thus difficulty breathing. COPD is a result of long-term exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke and occupational dust and chemicals. Typically, COPD is a slowly progressing disease with symptoms worsening over time. There are three hallmark symptoms of COPD: dyspnea (shortness of breath), chronic cough, and sputum production. While there is no cure for COPD, there are treatments that can be used to manage symptoms and slow disease progression.
There are multiple different types of pharmacological agents used to manage COPD such as short-acting bronchodilators (ipratropium, salbutamol, terbutaline), long-acting bronchodilators (tiotropium, formoterol, salmeterol), and corticosteroids (budesonide, mometasone, fluticasone). Most medications used for COPD come in the form of an inhaler, which means that proper inhaler technique is crucial to ensure that these drugs can work. Although inhalers can take some practice to use, your pharmacist can help you master inhaler technique!
One of the cornerstones of COPD management is proper inhaler use. Inhalers are crucial in delivering medications directly to your lungs, where they are needed most. However, using them correctly can be difficult. Your PharmaChoice pharmacist is your go-to resource for mastering inhaler techniques. They can demonstrate proper inhaler use for you to watch, evaluate your technique, and provide other helpful tips to ensure you get the full effect from your medications. Some COPD medications are available in multiple types of inhaler devices, so if you are struggling to use your inhaler, talk to your pharmacist to see if switching devices might help!
Even with perfect inhaler technique, there are some factors that can worsen your COPD symptoms. One of these factors is cold weather, and with winter right around the corner, it is more important than ever to discuss the extra precautions you can take to protect yourself. Cold air dries and irritates the airways which may intensify one’s COPD symptoms. When out in the cold, COPD patients can cover their nose and mouth with a scarf or mask to warm the air that is inhaled to prevent irritation. Winter is also influenza season, and because influenza can worsen COPD symptoms, all COPD patients are encouraged to receive their annual influenza vaccine. Visit your PharmaChoice pharmacist to receive your influenza vaccine this fall and ask about COPD management tips while you are there!
There are many other non-drug measures you can take to ensure your COPD is optimally managed. For those who smoke, quitting is the most significant step you can take to slow down the progression of COPD. Your pharmacist can provide resources and support to help you quit. Exercising is another way to improve lung function as well as your overall health. Maintaining a healthy weight is important as body excess weight increases the work required to breathe, which is already impaired by COPD. Finally, avoiding exposure to dust and irritants can help keep symptoms at bay.
So let’s say you have mastered proper inhaler technique and use your inhalers as prescribed, you avoid irritants and dust, you exercise and eat healthy, and you take every other measure to properly manage your COPD, are you safe from experiencing symptoms and flare-ups? Unfortunately not. Even those who take every precaution can still experience severe COPD symptoms which can be not only frustrating but also frightening. Luckily, your pharmacist can help you prepare for flare-ups by creating an action plan that includes guidance on when to seek medical help and how to use rescue medications effectively.
Living well with COPD is possible, and your PharmaChoice pharmacist is your ally in this journey. By working together, you can optimize your inhaler technique, navigate winter challenges, manage flare-ups, and adopt healthy lifestyle choices. Do not hesitate to reach out to your pharmacist for guidance, support, and expert advice tailored to your unique needs. With their help, you can breathe easier and enjoy a better quality of life.