Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~
So, we are asking you to keep track of your seemingly endless list of medications, of your vital signs, (Read The list Blog), and now of how you are feeling? Seems a lot to ask, but your alternative is not all that attractive, either…
A well-designed action plan can help you to ward off the dreaded exacerbation, the pneumonia or other lung infection that will gleefully sneak up on you. Whenever an exacerbation strikes, it can drastically reduce lung function. Once reduced, it takes a great deal of effort to regain the former levels. Having gone through my own highs and lows over my long career with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, I can testify just how hard it is to recover. It can be done, but it requires a degree of dedication that is rare, especially given already weakened lungs.
So, it is highly recommended that anyone with a chronic condition should develop a plan that will assist both the patient and his or her medical personnel in preventing problems. The following guidelines were developed by the American Lung Association. Click this link to view the guidelines.
The categories are divided into green, yellow and red zones. As might be expected, green indicates a day in which the patient is feeling well, yellow is for those days when things are not quite so good, and red is the danger zone.
The “green” days encompass the ability to maintain a decent activity level, sleeping and eating well, and a relative ease in breathing. Everyone is obviously different, so all of the guidelines are relative. The actions would include taking prescribed medications and oxygen, and exercising.
Yellow days bring increased breathlessness, less energy and coughing more than usual. An increase in mucus or a decrease in restful sleep or appetite, or a feeling that medications are not as effective as normal would accompany the generally weakened feelings of a yellow day.
Recommendations for action would likely include adhering to medication schedules, using a quick relief inhaler, and wearing oxygen when it is prescribed, not just when it is convenient. Increased rest, pursed lip breathing and possibly a course of steroids or an antibiotic might be recommended, along with instructions to call a medical provider if the symptoms persist.
Red days are marked by severe shortness of breath even at rest, inability to perform most normal activities, confusion or drowsiness. Chest pains, fever or coughing up blood are prime indicators of the need for urgent medical care. Seek help immediately and call 911 if necessary.
A good action plan should be developed with the aid and cooperation of a pulmonary physician. The American Lung Association Action Plan is accompanied by another form called the COPD Management Plan. It is meant to be filled out on the occasion of each doctor visit. It includes vital signs, lung function tests, and records of flu and pneumonia vaccines. It also covers other health conditions and recommendations for oxygen settings for various levels of activity.
Like most other things, all of this keeping track of stuff will become habit before long. It will serve as further proof to your doctors and nurses and such like that you do in fact care about your health.
Good for you!
~ Uncle Jim
Jim Nelson is a double lung transplant recipient and a patient advocate for COPD patients throughout the U.S. and around the world. He and his wife, Mary, are well known patient advocates and brand ambassadors for those organizations who tirelessly endeavor to help those individuals who suffer from a variety of respiratory diseases and the caregivers who support them.
If you have been prescribed oxygen therapy, learn more about CAIRE by visiting www.caireinc.com/patients or calling 1-877-704-0878 to talk to an oxygen advisor. When using any oxygen therapy device please consult the applicable product instructions for use for product indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions, and detailed safety information.