Sharing the Health

KarpicDr. Ron Karpick is a Virginia specialist in Pulmonary Disease, Internal Medicine and Geriatric Medicine who has also been involved with EFFORTS. He recently read an article investi- gating deaths from fire, caused by people on supplemental oxygen therapy, who were smoking. Dr. Ron thought this sub- ject deserved some attention. He says, “Fortunately the event is not common, but it is not rare either.”

The report in the weekly report from the Centers for Disease Control looked at the death statistics from four states over a seven year period. It showed thirty-four oxygen users were smoking at the time a fire began. Three were household members of smokers and one was a non- smoker on long-term oxygen who was unintentionally ignited by a smoker living in the household. The bedroom was the most common site of the start of the fires and the majority of fires occurred between midnight and 8 am.

Dr. Ron believes what is important about this article is that “individuals who continue to smoke should not do so while breathing supplemental oxygen. I do not believe there are any studies that show that there is any benefit given to persistent smokers on long-term oxygen. Smoking produces carbon monoxide in the blood stream which would negate the benefit of oxygen therapy on the heart, blood vessels and brain.

Oxygen will not explode, but it enhances burning. Oxygen makes flammable materials burn faster and hotter. Homes should have smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, so that if a fire does start, the alarm would sound, the fire department would be called, and the people would be evacuated. If the fire was small, it could possibly be extinguished by someone in the household. Better still, a sprinkler system could start automatically, while the occupants were being evacuated. Every home should have an evacuation plan.

Oxygen is a valuable medicine, it is not to be abused. Its abuse can have serious consequences for the user and for our loved ones.”

Unbelievably, a 90-year-old Michigan woman was critically burned when smoking while on oxygen, even though she was hospitalized for a similar incident the previous May!

From our premier issue, we would like to present “Constructive Attitudes and Behaviors for Rehabilita- tion” that we think you still be inspired by after twenty years.

  • Always get dressed first thing in the Staying in bedclothes promotes illness rather than wellness.
  • Visit 3 to 5 people outside your home during the
  • Do not talk about your disease, other than a brief polite response to persons who inquire about your
  • Occasionally, exercise to the point of discomfort, then, by voluntary effort, mind over matter, relax, do pursed lip breathing and breathe You are in control of your symptoms. Shortness of breath is unpleasant but not harmful.
  • If you begin to feel depressed, don’t just sit there until you lose the ability to Do something!
  • Do not let others do things for you which you could do for yourself, even if discomfort
  • Persuade your spouse or significant other, to spend one day a week away from
  • Make a list of short-term goals, such as walking a certain length or going out, and then reward yourself for good behavior.
Throughout the years, our readers have enjoyed Sharing the Health. Some of our favorite tips:Soap chips or shavings, placed underneath your bed sheets, or bar soap rubbed on your calves before sleep, prevent leg cramps. No one can offer an explanation why, but so many of you have said it works!
In the shower, use a bath seat and a hand sprayer. If you use oxygen, drape your tubing over the shower rod. When you get out, put on a terry cloth robe instead of drying off with towels. Have another chair or stool to use with a low mirror to shave or put makeup on. Shorter hairstyles that are easy to care for may be helpful.

Do not wear clothes that are tight, they may restrict your breathing. People with emphysema often have an increased chest diameter. Ladies find camisoles easier to wear than bras. There is no rule that you have to wear girdles or pantyhose. Men find suspenders easier than belts. Using a long shoehorn for slip-on and velcro shoes beats trying to bend over and tie shoelaces.

Carry a small basket with medications and other items you need frequently throughout the day. It will save steps. Use a long-handled gripper to avoid bending for things in high or low places. Prepare and pace yourself for activities.

Tai Chi is a favorite exercise for people with lung problems and it has recently been found to help older people sleep better.

And the tips just keep on coming!

I put my “E” oxygen cylinder (that I have named Ezmeralda) in her cart with a fifty-foot hose and away we go to our community pool. Ezmeralda lies quietly near the edge of the pool and allows me to do laps. It is easy to do exercises in the water. If there are not too many people, I can swim laps across. Everyone is very kind and tends to keep out of the way of the hose.

Nancy Miller, Gulfport, FL


I am sending a very big thank you for sharing helpful hints. I read about a lady that blew bubbles to help her breathing. I thought it would be fun but did not realize how much it would help me! I went to my doctor after blowing bubbles for a month. Amazingly, he told me my lung capacity increased 5% from my last test. I am 88 years old and still drive my own car.

Evelyn Edleman, Camanche, IA

It is really nice to know that I am not alone with my emphysema. I have a tip to help the air circulate around your concentrator. I purchased “bed risers” which come in a box of four. I put one under each wheel of the concentrator. It seems to distribute the air so it doesn’t overheat at the bottom. It keeps the area a little cooler too. I found the bed risers at Bed, Bath and Beyond, they are reasonably priced and really work!

Jacquie Tompkins, Glendale, AZ

 Plan Ahead and Get Your Flu Vaccination!

Be sure to make plans to get your ann flu vaccination. The FDA has updated the vaccine with three new strains, rather than the usual one or two. There should be no danger of a shortage of serum this year, as there are six versions of flu vaccine being distributed. FluMist, a live vaccine given nasally, is recommended for those ages 2 through 49. People with COPD should avoid FluMist. Plan to be protected by Election Day!

You might want to check with your physician when the last time you received a pneumonia vaccination was. The doctor may want you to receive an additional dose if it has been five years or longer.