When taking your inhalers always take the reliever first and leave 15 minutes to allow it to work before taking the others. That way you will get a stronger breath in for the other inhalers. When taking, you should not breath in sharply, as this results in the drug ending up mostly on the back of the throat. Instead, inhale slowly but steadily to draw the drug deeply into the lungs.
If your steroid inhaler sometimes causes you oral thrush, taking a spoonful of live yoghurt beforehand may prevent it. Always rinse your mouth with water after using your inhalers.
Use a spacer when taking your reliever (unless it is a dry powder inhaler) as this will dramatically improve the drug delivery to your lungs and allow you to inhale it over several breaths. The larger the spacer the better. If you don't have a spacer available, you can improvise one from an empty water bottle by making a hole in the bottom for the inhaler and inhaling through the screw top. Spacers should be washed in warm soapy water monthly, rinsed and allowed to air dry. DO NOT wipe dry as this will create static electricity which will cause the drug to stick to the walls of the spacer. Spacers should be replaced every six months.
Try to use abdominal (diaphragmatic) breathing at all times. Breathing through your nose will encourage this, as mouth breathing tends to cause your shoulders to rise and for you to inhale using the rib cage rather than the diaphragm. Place your hands on your stomach and breath in steadily through the nose, then out through the mouth, feeling the stomach go in and out. This will improve your lung function.
To improve breath control get hold of a child's windmill and blow gently to spin it for as long as possible.
Join a singing group. Singing can also increase lung capacity and improve breath control.
To clear phlegm in the lungs use Active Cycle Breathing. This consists of 3 breaths of abdominal breathing, followed by 4 deep breaths all held for 3 seconds, then 3 more of abdominal breathing, then 3 medium huffs (breath in as far as you can, then out sharply through the mouth making a ‘huff’ sound). This will clear the top of the lungs. The repeat the above cycle using 3 strong huffs, which will clear the bottom of the lungs. Do this twice in the morning and twice in the evening to keep the lungs clear all day.
If you anticipate undertaking anything strenuous, take your reliever inhaler 10-15 minutes beforehand.
To avoid getting too breathless when climbing steps, try breathing in on the first step and then out on the second and so on until you reach the top.
Pace yourself. Build up tolerance by walking regularly, increasing the distance gradually. Remember it takes longer to build up tolerance than to lose it. For videos of some gentle exercises suitable for COPD sufferers visit http://www.youtube.com/user/BreathersGroup
Panting when short of breath is bad as this reduces lung function. Instead, stop breathing, relax your shoulders and slowly breathe out, pursing your lips to increase the pressure in the lungs. Hold up your index finger and pretend there is a flame on the end of it. Your breath out should be enough to cause the flame to flicker but NOT go out. Lean forward and rest on something. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, feeling your stomach go in and out (abdominal breathing). Relax your shoulders.