It seems like no matter where we go these days or what we’re doing, we’re always using technology. While several decades ago, it may have been possible to avoid using a cell phone or the internet, this becomes increasingly difficult as nearly everything around us is moving digital. According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 own a cell phone, and 79% of people in the same age group own smartphones. These numbers are only expected to increase over the years.
Although the pros and cons of smartphone use are hotly debated, it’s fair to say that they’ve afforded us easier access to information than ever before. And if you’re someone with a respiratory illness like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you know that technology enables you to stay connected more easily with friends and loved ones, and research information about managing and treating your disease. What’s more, most of these resources are free and easy to use.
If you’re a COPD patient who’s interested in technology that allows you to interact with your disease in unique and beneficial ways, stick around. We’re going to be taking a look at some of the best mobile applications you can have on your smartphone. In the meantime, if you’re in the market for a portable oxygen concentrator, feel free to reach out to our respiratory specialists in Denver, Colorado. LPT Medical offers the lowest prices on the latest portable oxygen concentrators including the Caire FreeStyle Comfort, Inogen One G5, and the Respironics SimplyGo.
If you’ve read any of our blog posts here at LPT Medical, you know how important air quality is to us. While cigarette smoking is still the primary cause of COPD, exposure to outdoor air pollution, and indoor irritants is still a significant risk factor for contracting COPD. this is why it’s of the utmost importance to be conscious about the air we breathe and take steps to plan our life around these issues. While there will always be poor air quality due to wildfires and carbon emissions, we can take steps to live healthier lives.
If you read our post about wildfires, you know that we discussed a very important component of air quality: the air quality index (AQI). This is a broad term used to describe the overall quality of air outdoors. It’s an aggregate score of five major types of pollutants including carbon monoxide, particle pollution (PM2.5 and PM10), ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. The AQI scale runs from 0 being perfect air quality and 500 being the absolute worst. Generally speaking, COPD patients should not be outside if the AQI is over 100, but this will depend on the severity of your symptoms.
Rather than having to go to the AirNow website to check the AQI in your area, the AirNow Mobile application allows you to do it anywhere in the world from the convenience of your smartphone or tablet. You can save a variety of different locations to easily check the AQI all over the country and you can even view the AQI forecast in your area to make it easy to plan your week. Since all of the information is pulled straight from AirNow.gov, you can rest assured that it’s up-to-date and factual.
Most people give very little or no thought to the way they breathe — but they should! The way we breathe is directly linked to many of the body’s functions including, sleep, digestion, and cognitive function. Simply by becoming more self-aware of our breathing habits and implementing techniques like deep breathing and diaphragmatic breathing, we can begin to reverse the negative effects of shallow, ineffective breathing. This is imperative for COPD patients who have significantly reduced lung function compared to the general population.
Another problem with ineffective breathing is that it can cause anxiety. The Breathe2Relax app was created specifically to target this type of breathing and correct it so that you can feel more at peace and relaxed in your day-to-day life. One of the techniques it focuses on is diaphragmatic breathing which teaches you how to breathe using the diaphragm muscles below the lungs rather than using the chest muscles to breathe. Many people find it difficult to learn this technique from simply reading about it, so this app is more interactive to ensure you do the exercises correctly. Another great feature of this app is that it can connect with your Apple Watch to measure your heart rate and provide you even more detailed information about your health.
If you’d like to learn more about breathing exercises for COPD, we’ve created a great comprehensive guide. In this post, we take a look at 6 key breathing exercises that all COPD patients should know about including:
- The stop, rest and continue technique
- Pursed lips breathing
- Coordinated breathing
- Deep breathing
- Diaphragmatic breathing
- And a relaxed posture
According to the American Lung Association, 85 to 90 percent of COPD patients contract their disease through cigarette smoking. While not all people continue smoking after being diagnosed with COPD, you may be surprised to find that around 38% do. Unfortunately, many people believe that the damage has already been done, and continuing to smoke will not affect them, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Any amount of smoking, whether it’s one cigarette a week or a pack a day will contribute to lung inflammation, and thus, increase the rate at which COPD progresses.
Another problem with smoking as a COPD patient is that it significantly increases your risk of experiencing a flare-up or exacerbation. In short, an exacerbation is a sudden increase in respiratory symptoms such as breathlessness, chest pain, coughing, or wheezing. Acute exacerbations can be severe and even lead to hospitalization if they aren’t dealt with swiftly and efficiently. Smoking also impairs your immune system’s responsiveness making you more likely to contract a lung infection. Infections are also the most common cause of COPD exacerbations. For a more detailed look at the importance of smoking cessation, please visit our article titled: 15 Important Things That Happen When You Quit Smoking.
While there are many “quit smoking” apps out there, we chose NCI QuitGuide because it was created by the National Cancer Institute. This is one of 11 government organizations that makes up the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the United States. NCI QuitGuide is not necessarily designed to be an all-in-one smoking cessation tool, but it can be used in tandem with other methods like nicotine replacement therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Be sure to consult with your doctor to determine which method is best for you.
QuitGuide is a simple mobile application that allows you to track cigarette cravings, mood, and your reasons for quitting. It also displays information about your smoking cessation including the amount of money you’ve saved, days smoke-free, and provides you with milestones to reach. This app is perfect for anyone who wants to see the tangible effects of smoking cessation. The best part of all is that it’s free. There’s no need to worry about paying an upfront fee or paying a subscription of any kind.
We’ve referenced the COPD Foundation many times and you’re likely familiar with COPD360social, a free social networking site for people with COPD. However, you may be less familiar with their mobile application, the COPD Pocket Consultant Guide. This app has tools for healthcare providers, caretakers, and patients, so it’s important that you select the option that applies to you when you first open it. Once you have it set up, however, you’ll find that you have a variety of resources at your disposal.
The “For My Next Visit” section is designed to help you prepare for your next doctor’s visit. This is a simple tool that displays a bunch of “questions” and “symptoms.” You can then go through and select the questions you’d like to ask your doctor upon your next visit, along with any symptoms that have changed since your last one. You can then either save your results or print them out to show your doctor.
The “Wallet Card” section is designed to work like a digital version of your medical information card. Through this tool, you can save important information about your oxygen concentrator flow setting, CPAP or BiPAP settings, and a whole host of other things such as your physician contact information and insurance provider information. The best part about this feature is that it allows you to secure all of this important information using face identification technology. This way, you ensure that only you can view this information.
The third feature of this app is the training video section. Pulmonary rehabilitation, inhaler therapy, and nebulizer therapy are key components of most COPD treatment plans, and these videos will show you exactly how to do these things effectively. Believe it or not, studies show that many people do not follow their treatment plan, especially when it comes to using an inhaler. This app provides the easiest solution to this with all the training videos in one area.
The next feature of this app is the “Activity Tracking” section. This section lists out a bunch of daily activities such as cleaning, making the bed, and brushing your teeth, then you get to choose the level of difficulty you have doing these things. Fill out this form once a month and then print it out to see what kind of progress you’re making in your day-to-day life.
An action plan is a series of steps you will take if you encounter a specific problem. The COPD Pocket Consultant Guide divides your symptoms into three different categories: green, meaning you feel good; yellow, meaning you feel worse than normal; and red, meaning you are experiencing serious and disruptive respiratory problems. Go over this section of the app with your doctor so that you’re prepared for days where your symptoms increase.
Last but certainly not least, there is a section titled “more” that has additional resources for you to view. This includes links to COPD360social, the COPD Foundation blog, the COPD Patient-Powered Research Network (COPD PPRN), a COPD Assessment Test (CAT), and a help page if you’re experiencing any issues with the app or you have any questions about managing your disease.
All Respiratory Disease and Treatment (Android)
The last mobile application we’re going to go over is not necessarily specifically designed for COPD patients, but it’s more of an educational resource about all respiratory diseases — chronic and acute — and how they’re treated. This is a useful app if you’re someone who simply enjoys learning about the lungs and how to take care of them. It can also help you put COPD into perspective and clarify any confusion about its similarities and differences when it comes to other lung diseases.
The best advantage of using this app is that you won’t have to waste time scouring the internet for information about COPD and other lung diseases. Simply open up the app and you’ll be able to view a substantial amount of information about COPD like a definition, risk factors, symptoms, causes, home remedies, and much more. It’s also handy to have on-the-go if a question comes to mind while you’re away from your computer at home. The only downside is that this app is only available on Android.
The world is a more connected place than ever before. One of the biggest benefits of this is that we can have easier access to information in the palm of our hands, pretty much wherever we go. If you’re a COPD patient, you need to stay up to date on how to treat your disease, as well as how to use things like inhalers, nebulizers, and oxygen devices. The apps listed above are just a few of the free resources you have available to you if you use a smartphone like an Android or an iPhone.
Looking for more ways to stay connected? Telehealth technology is reshaping the way we view healthcare and it’s becoming increasingly more accessible for COPD patients like you. Check out this blog post where we feature portable oxygen concentrators like the Caire FreeStyle Comfort and the Inogen One G5 and the unique technologies they’re bringing to the oxygen industry. And in the meantime, stay tuned to our blog where we discuss helpful information about COPD and COPD management.