Self-management

Lifestyle and home remedies

If you have emphysema, you can take a number of steps to halt its progression and to protect yourself from complications:

  • Stop smoking. This is the most important measure you can take for your overall health and the only one that might halt the progression of emphysema. Join a smoking cessation program if you need help giving up smoking. As much as possible, avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Avoid other respiratory irritants. These include fumes from paint and automobile exhaust, some cooking odors, certain perfumes, even burning candles and incense. Change furnace and air conditioner filters regularly to limit pollutants.
  • Exercise regularly. Try not to let your breathing problems keep you from getting regular exercise, which can significantly increase your lung capacity.
  • Protect yourself from cold air. Cold air can cause spasms of the bronchial passages, making it even more difficult to breathe. During cold weather, wear a soft scarf or a cold-air mask — available from a pharmacy — over your mouth and nose before going outside, to warm the air entering your lungs.
  • Get recommended vaccinations. Be sure to get an annual flu shot and pneumonia vaccinations as advised by your doctor.
  • Prevent respiratory infections. Do your best to avoid direct contact with people who have a cold or the flu. If you have to mingle with large groups of people during cold and flu season, wear a face mask, wash your hands frequently and carry a small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use when needed.

Coping and support

The shortness of breath associated with emphysema can severely limit your ability to participate in daily activities. Many people become withdrawn and depressed.

To help you cope with the changes emphysema has made in your life, you might want to:

  • Express your feelings. Your emphysema may limit some of your activities and affect your family's plans and routines in ways you can't always anticipate. If you and your family can talk openly about each other's needs, you'll be better able to meet the challenges of living with this disease. Be alert to changes in your mood and your relations with others, and don't be afraid to seek counseling.
  • Consider a support group. You may also want to consider joining a support group for people with emphysema. Although support groups aren't for everyone, they can be a good source of information and coping strategies. And it can be encouraging to spend time with other people in circumstances similar to yours. If you're interested in a support group, talk to your doctor or check the American Lung Association's website for local and online support groups.

Prevention

To prevent emphysema, don't smoke and avoid breathing secondhand smoke. Wear a mask to protect your lungs if you work with chemical fumes or dust.