The winter months can be dangerous for people with chronic respiratory conditions like COPD and asthma. But many patients aren't really sure how to protect themselves from cold weather perils like colds and the flu.
As a respiratory therapist, you can be a good resource for these folks, and Krystal Craddock, BSRC, RRT-NPS, AE-C, CCM, COPD case management coordinator and RT clinical education and QI coordinator in the department of respiratory care at UC Davis Medical Center in Davis, CA, has some great tips you can quickly and easily put to use in your practice.
Here are her Top Five:
Wash your hands. Infection is spread by dirty hands. When people touch dirty surfaces, then touch their face, it can cause an upper respiratory infection that can be dangerous for people with chronic lung conditions. Washing your hands is the easiest way to prevent the spread of infection.
Get your flu and pneumonia vaccines. Contracting flu or pneumonia can be costly, dangerous, and cause missed time at school, work, other events. Protect you and your family by talking to your doctor to assure you are up to date on your vaccinations.
Get a good night's rest. Sleep is key to staying healthy, but it must be effective sleep. Be sure you use a CPAP or BiPAP device if prescribed, set a bedtime, and limit distractions and use of technology right before going to sleep.
Exercise. You do not need to be a triathlete to be strong and healthy. Exercise such as walking, light weight lifting, and yoga is a great way of increasing your endurance and energy level. Exercise can be a fun way of staying healthy if you find an activity you enjoy.
Take your medications as prescribed. It is important to take your medications as directed by your doctor, even if you're feeling well. When you are prescribed medications to treat chronic medical conditions you may not feel the effects immediately, but they are working to keep your body healthy. These daily scheduled medications are called maintenance medications.
Use Craddock's tips as a framework for the discussions you have with your chronic respiratory patients in the hospital, outpatient setting, and the home. They'll appreciate the advice, and they'll remember that it was a respiratory therapist who took the time to counsel them on how to stay as healthy as possible this winter season.