There are many things to consider before going out, if you have COPD. The weather, pollution levels and your energy levels being of the most important.
Different strokes for different folks. All people who have COPD have different reactions to the weather. Some like it hot, some cold, some damp, some dry. The most important thing is to make use of the opportunity if the weather is like you prefer it.
Should we trust air we can see? Air pollution is a major problem to people who suffer from COPD. Take note of the daily air quality reports in the newspaper or on TV and stay indoors if the air pollution is bad.
Think ahead. Make preparations for your homecoming. Put out your pajamas, make a flask of tea and finish any chores that need doing. In this way you can return home from your outing and just relax.
Pace yourself. Be aware of how much energy it takes to perform certain tasks and build in rest periods into the outing. Allow for sufficient time that you are not in a hurry. Sit down and have a cup of tea. It is important that you don't exhaust yourself unnecessarily.
Wrap up. Dress warmly in a lightweight coat if you're going out in winter. Stay away from heavy garments, as they will only exhaust you. A scarf or balaclava could stop you from getting cold or breathing in cold air.
Stick 'em up. A walking stick is a great help to those who do a lot of outdoor walking. You can lean on this when you feel you need some support.
Disabled disc. Get one for your car, so that you will not have to walk long distances to the shopping centre. What's the point of exhausting yourself before you've even hit the shops?
Identify yourself. When using public transport, make sure you always have identification on you, in case something happens and you need medical attention.
Cellphone lifeline. If you have a cellphone, always carry it with you. Make sure it is loaded and that you have calltime. Pre-programme some numbers that you can dial them easily if you get into difficulty of any sort.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated December 2008)
Visit the SA Thoracic Society for more information.