Home Health Blogger

Teach Patients to Manage Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Posted by Melissa Cott on Jun 24, 2021

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) is a leading cause of death in the United States, affecting 16 million Americans and millions more who don’t know they have it. Home health nurses and therapists encounter patients with COPD every day. In addition to COPD drugs, the following COPD patient teaching strategies will help clients reduce exacerbations, control COPD symptoms, and help patients achieve successful home health discharge. 

Breathing tips to manage Shortness of Breath (Dyspnea)

Pursed Lip Breathing

• Relax your neck and shoulder muscles.Take the COPD Quiz for Skilled Nursing!
• Breathe in (inhale) slowly through your nose for two counts, keeping your mouth closed. Don't take a deep breath; a normal breath will do. It may help to count to yourself: inhale, one, two.
• Pucker or purse your lips as if you were going to whistle or gently flicker the flame of a candle.
• Breathe out (exhale) slowly and gently through your pursed lips while counting to four. It may help to count to yourself: exhale, one, two, three, four.
• Do not force the air out.
• Always breathe out for longer than you breathe in.
• Breathe slowly, easily, and relaxed... in and out... until you are in complete control.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

• Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on the floor, your bed, or another comfortable, flat surface.
• Relax your shoulders.
• Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach.
• Breathe in through your nose for about two seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand. During this type of breathing, make sure your stomach is moving outward while your chest remains relatively still.
• Purse your lips (as if you're about to drink through a straw), press gently on your stomach, and exhale slowly for about two seconds.
• Repeat these steps several times for best results.

Additional Home Treatments for Shortness of Breath 

  • Sitting forward - resting while sitting can help relax your body and make breathing easier.
  • Sitting forward supported by a table. If you have both a chair and table to use, you may find this to be more comfortable sitting position in which to catch your breath.
  • Standing with supported back. This can help relax your body and airways.
  • Sleeping in a relaxed position. Lie on your side with a pillow between your legs and your head elevated by pillows, keeping your back straight. Or lie on your back with your head elevated and your knees bent, with a pillow under your knees.
  • Cool air can help relieve shortness of breath. Pointing a small handheld fan toward your face can help your symptoms.
  • Drink coffee. Caffeine relaxes the muscles in the airways of people with asthma. This can improve lung function for up to four hours.

Food to Keep the Lungs Healthy

  • Drink plenty of water. Water is essential for healthy lungs. Dry lungs are prone to irritation. You should try to drink between six and eight glasses a day.
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids which are linked with lung health.
  • Apples are good source of vitamin C which contributes to good lung function.
  • Apricots are associated with healthy lungs due to their vitamin A content.
  • Broccoli is a highly antioxidant green vegetable. It is one of the best greens for lung health, especially in individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.
  • Poultry such as chicken, turkey, and other small poultry birds can benefit your lungs. Your body may absorb animal-based versions of vitamin A better than plant-based.
  • Walnuts eating regular servings of walnuts -- about one handful daily -- may help fight asthma and other respiratory ailments.
  • Beans like kidney, pinto, black and other are good sources of antioxidants, which fight off free radicals that may damage lungs.
  • Berries are rich in antioxidants. Acai, blueberry, cranberries, grapes, and strawberries are good for the lungs.

Natural ways to cleanse lungs

  • Steam therapy. It involves inhaling water vapor to open the airways and help the lungs drain mucus. Steam adds warmth and moisture to the air, which may improve breathing and help loosen mucus inside the airways and lungs. Inhaling water vapor can provide
  • Controlled coughing loosens excess mucus in the lungs, sending it up through the airways. Doctors recommend that people with COPD perform this exercise to help clear their lungs.
  • Drain mucus from the lungs. Postural drainage involves lying in different positions to use gravity to remove mucus from the lungs. This practice may improve breathing and help treat or prevent lung infections.
  • Postural drainage techniques differ depending on the position: on your back, on your side, and on your stomach.
  • Green tea contains many antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation in the lungs. These compounds may even protect lung tissue from the harmful effects of smoke inhalation.
  • Chest percussion is another effective way to remove excess mucus from the lungs. Combining chest percussion and postural drainage can help clear the airways of excess mucus.


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