Usually, by this point in the spring, I’ve had at least one upper respiratory infection — a common complication of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). My last one was particularly problematic and led to double pneumonia. I was in the hospital for eight days and required noninvasive ventilation for the first three. But so far this year, I’ve managed to avoid infections.

One of the most important things that those of us with COPD can do for our health is to avoid exacerbations, which can be brought on by illness. According to the Mayo Clinic, “People with COPD are more likely to catch colds, the flu, and pneumonia. Any respiratory infection can make it much more difficult to breathe and could cause further damage to lung tissue.”

I believe that prevention is far better than treatment, so I’m willing to try anything I consider safe that might help keep me from getting sick. Following are two of the practices I’ve implemented in an effort to avoid illness and infection with COPD.

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about my morning routine. But one aspect I didn’t mention is humming.

I started humming after a young pulmonologist friend from India introduced me to the practice as a way to increase nitric oxide in my nostrils. Nitric oxide is a naturally occurring compound that plays an important role in various bodily functions. For instance, it helps relax blood vessels, which allows for improved blood flow. This may be especially helpful for COPD patients, as our low oxygen levels can cause our arteries to narrow.

Nitric oxide is also a key component of the immune system. As the University of Reading’s website notes, the compound helps destroy harmful bacteria and protect the body against other types of illness and infection.

According to an article published in 2002 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a small study of 10 healthy adults indicated that nasal nitric oxide levels “increase dramatically during humming compared with normal quiet nasal exhalation.”

Now, prior to using my inhaler each morning, I do six humming sessions and six pursed lip breathing sessions.

For humming, I take a deep breath, place my thumb and forefinger above the bridge of my nose, and concentrate on making vibrations in my nose. I hum for 30-40 seconds, keeping the sound in my middle or lower range, and repeat this six times.

Pursed lip breathing involves inhaling through my nose and exhaling through pursed lips. This breathing exercise helps me clear stale air from my lungs and relieve my shortness of breath.

Nasal irrigation

A long time ago, I owned a neti pot to help flush out my nasal cavity, but I got rid of it after reading several negative reports. Recently, though, one of my close friends told me that she had avoided sinus infections by using a nasal irrigation device.

Since I like to investigate things on my own, I began researching various devices and their safety records. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), improper use of neti pots and similar devices can increase a person’s risk of infection. That said, nasal irrigation devices “are usually safe and effective products when used and cleaned properly,” the FDA noted.

I now use a sinus wash system, though I make sure to take several precautions. As the FDA recommends, I only use distilled or sterile water. And after talking with my pulmonology nurse, I make sure to only use prepackaged sterile salt, and I clean the device with white vinegar immediately after use.

These two practices are the only things that have changed in my routine this year, so I will keep on doing them in hopes of continuing to avoid upper respiratory infections.

How do you prevent illnesses or infections with COPD? Please share in the comments below.

Note: COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of COPD News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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