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For COPD, Asthma or Respiratory sufferers

What it’s like to be the partner of a COPD sufferer (Lloyd Ffrench- Guest Post)

LLOYD FFRENCH (Guest post) 

Well firstly, I want to start this by saying by no means am I an expert of COPD or any respiratory condition for that matter, but I wanted to put together a post about what it’s like to be indirectly linked with the condition especially when it concerns a loved one.

When I had first met Kim, she was an incredibly active individual who shared a passion for exercise and routinely went to the gym, yoga, dance classes. This was something we both shared a passion for and in fact I used to use my Virgin guest passes so we could enjoy these activities together. A year or so later, this all dramatically changed when Kim started to really suffer with her breathing and at times I felt helpless as it can be incredibly difficult to see another human being suffer without any ability to help that person, never mind when this person is a loved one.

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Asthma and COPD triggers at home

DR PETER JOYCE FROM ODAIR (Guest post) 

Allergens may take on many guises and for the most part are invisible to the human eye. Sometimes the only indication of their presence is a cough or slight wheezing. Believe it or not it is difficult to concretely distinguish between bronchial asthma and chronic respiratory inflammation caused by living with poor IAQ (Indoor Air Quality). The two are inextricably linked. Asthma is a combination of genetic predisposition and exposure to environmental factors.

There have been many studies linking the development of adult asthma to such environmental factors. These causes are in fact a long term exposure to the very same triggers that exasperate symptoms in someone who has already been diagnosed.

Regardless of severity of symptoms it is important to minimise exposure to the triggers on a long term basis. The problem is that the triggers are present in every home in one way or another. They range from pet hair, to dust collecting behind furniture, to mite excrement and mold spores. And that’s just indoors! Pollen, sand dust and pollution can make their way into your home from the outside.

When you are susceptible to these triggers it is important to identify them as soon as possible and to deal with them on a long term basis.

asthma-dust-mites.jpg

Using an air purifier at home can increase the air quality at home tenfold. A high grade HEPA filter normally filters out around 99.97% of particulate matter. This includes pollen, dust mite excrement and mold spores. The important thing to remember is to choose a powerful purifier that can perform several complete air changes in one hour. This means all of the allergens present in the air will collect within the filter. The HEPA filter layer can then be replaced with a fresh one. Running such a filtration system as often as possible has been medically proven to reduce respiratory inflammation.

A quality air purifier will have several other filtration layers within. For example, to deal with complex chemical pollutants and odors, a charcoal layer is used. This clever filter uses Van der Waals molecular forces to permanently eliminate complex allergens. Again, a powerful air flow will capture most pollutants inside the filter.

An intelligent air purifier will use a microcomputer sensor to run the machine in accordance with air quality. Essentially it purifies the air in real time. It adjusts air flow and filtration stages to suit the air quality.

Air purifiers are by no means a cure for asthma, but they do go some way to ensuring a healthy environment at home. They are definitely a good choice people with respiratory conditions.

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When the going gets tough…

Well it goes without saying, if you’re struggling for air or feel like you’re choking, A&E is your first call or 999. That’s common sense. But when it comes to symptoms that are unusual and is not any of the above, yet can still be warranted as serious, I call my specialist consultant asap.

I’m trying to get used to sharing as events occur or more on a ‘live’ basis. As we speak I write this as I’m in hospital at the present moment.

Three nights ago, I came back from a week long business trip in London and I was at the tail-end of an infection. Nothing that couldn’t be sorted with antibiotics and actually I felt like I was getting better. I arrived back to my home in Edinburgh on the Friday and I was fine for two days. But then on Sunday, out of nowhere, I started coughing up an unusual amount of blood. And it wasn’t the frothy, mucus kind (as gross as that sounds), it was what seemed like pure bright red blood. Lots of it. I didn’t even feel that poorly, but of course, it FREAKED me out.

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How to survive travelling with COPD

Almost 2.5 years on since I’ve been diagnosed and I’m still learning every day on how I can better accommodate to my condition. I don’t think there’s an end to that journey, like everyone with everything else, whether it’s your career, relationships, health- the beauty of being a human being is being able to constantly learn and adapt.

There has been days I wish I knew the answers instantly and didn’t have to deal with anymore uncertainty and then I realise, life would be pretty boring!

Having moved away from London because of my condition, you would think I’d avoid going there, but the fact is, there are many people living in urban cities and polluted environments with this condition and need to be able to cope. I was lucky enough to have the option to move away to somewhere less polluted and I did- Scotland- fresher air! If I wanted to go to the extreme, I’d have moved to Iceland (one of the least polluted cities in the world), but let’s just say, I still wanted a ‘life’! But not everyone has this option.

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Pick me ups and lessons learned

It’s been a while since I posted!

And in complete honesty, the last two weeks have been quite tough for me where I’ve been fraught with infection, illness and generally feeling down. I haven’t had the motivation to do much.

But these are the things that make us human as we go through the ebbs and flows of life. It’s what gives me the inspiration to write about these experiences and what we can do about them.

Any other COPD sufferer will know, inside-out, what it’s like when you first get infected and re-infected, whether it’s the common cold or some type of influenza. It’s safe to say, it doesn’t go down like any ‘normal’ healing process. It takes double the time as an ‘average’ person because your immune system is already compromised. And half the time, it’s battling to breath properly, never mind fighting an infection. It really is tough-going.

So what does that feel like?

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I look fine but…

I’m not. This pertains to the concept of ‘invisible illnesses’ and the huge discriminatory issues surrounding it. From personal experience, I’ve had many pass off judgement with either snide comments such as ‘can’t you just use inhalers?’ or people making me feel like I committed a crime for parking in a disabled space.

I do my hair and I do my make up every day. Of course I look fine! I have a mask on, but behind that mask, it may take me longer to get ready in the morning because on some days, my breathlessness and wheezing can be out of control. I remember being in London and even when I first moved back home to Aberdeen – the sheer effort it took just to get ready, to shower or to get on the tube to work felt like I was in a marathon with half the lung capacity as ‘normal’ people. Constantly coughing and trying to get oxygen was a task in itself. Walking on lunch breaks with colleagues also felt like a massive effort and I have a distinct memory of returning to work on lunch break and stopping at the bridge because I felt like ran out of oxygen. A kind colleague stayed with me until I could get my breath back from what was already a slow walk. Oh and fainting at work and being wheeled off to the medical room! The struggles are real and no one should be in a position to judge anything.

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Air pollution is affecting everyone, not just sufferers

You will have seen the recent coverage and London making headlines for its toxic air and breaching its annual air pollution in just five days. Even more so, it triggered further action by London’s mayor Sadiq Khan to issue their first ever ‘very high’ air pollution alert to the public. It was claimed it exceeded levels in Beijing. It is so severe in fact, air pollution is linked to 40,000 deaths in the UK. 

And everyone, from the most vulnerable to physically fit is affected. To stress its damaging and sometimes irreversible effects is critical and speaking from experience, I went from being hospitalised 11 times over 1.5 years in London to 1 time in Scotland. If you live in a polluted city, of course it is not always possible to relocate or have the opportunity that I had, but there is advice out there that you can follow to minimise the effects. I have no doubt that the Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)and particulate matter largely contributed to my deterioration. It was after the damage had been done, that I had wished I was more educated on the topic or paid more attention. So I think it is very important to spread the word to your loved ones, especially those living in cities. Not to scare them, but to help them become aware and take measures to minimise the damage.

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Leonard Nimoy and his battle with COPD

Next month marks the 2-year death anniversary of Leonard Nimoy (Spock in Star Wars)!

Some people may know his death was ultimately caused by COPD and Nimoy himself, despite having quit smoking 30 years before, he tweeted ‘not soon enough’. To his credit, in his final months before passing, he took precious time from his last days among us to issue a warning through traditional and social media. With smoking being the major cause of COPD, Nimoy wanted us to take more care in our younger years before the eventual realisation that we’re mortal, and that we need to take care of our health.

He took this often undiagnosed disease amongst many, to light, as much as he could.

The trouble with degenerative lung disease is that it’s impossible to know at what point enough damage has been done to the lungs that they will continue to degenerate, eventually resulting in a COPD diagnosis. It’s known as a ‘silent disease’.

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The misconceptions of COPD

As an opportunity to provide not only tangible and practical advice, I decided that this blog would also be dedicated to mental health, reassurances and spreading knowledge or awareness.

Added to that is the therapeutic effect of being able to write about all of this and really illuminate the path for myself and others, find our way, express and get it all out! It also means others going through a similar thing can either do a nodding of the head and feel understood or to become better educated so we can all deal with it together. It may also teach others to understand better, remove the stigma and judgements that go with it.

Continue reading “The misconceptions of COPD”

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