The holiday season may involve family traditions, parties and gift giving. But along with the excitement of the season, it might also mean increased activities, stress and fatigue. For those who have pulmonary fibrosis, the added events, travel and preparation may lead to an increased symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue. Fortunately, you can still enjoy the holidays with a little planning and possibly a few adjustments.
Stick to Your Routine
Holiday activities and travel may mean you’re busier than usual, which can throw your routine off. Try to stick to your regular schedule as much as possible. Take medications such as Esbriet (pirfenidone) and Ofev (nintedanib) on time, don’t skip your exercise routine and make sleep a priority.
It’s common for people with pulmonary fibrosis to tire quickly. When you add in the preparations and activities of the holidays, it can increase fatigue. Don’t skimp on sleep this holiday season. Develop and maintain good sleep hygiene. Avoid working right up until bedtime. Going over your shopping list or writing out Christmas cards is not relaxing. Instead, take some time at the end of the night to relax and unwind before bed.
Watch Your Diet
Holidays and food often go hand in hand. But don’t overdo it at the buffet table. Overeating and feeling bloated can increase shortness of breath. Enjoy a few treats, but keep portion size in mind. Also, reflux or GER is often associated with pulmonary fibrosis. If you have GER, limit greasy or fried foods, which may make symptoms worse.
Decorating, meal planning and shopping are a big part of the holidays. But all that activity of the season can become overwhelming for someone with pulmonary fibrosis. Remember to make adjustments as needed. For instance, if dashing through the mall is too much, take a short shopping trip or shop online and avoid the crowds. Instead of preparing a big family meal, have a potluck or go out to eat.
If traveling is too much this year, invite loved ones to your place instead. For those who are hitting the road, be sure to incorporate some downtime each day to avoid wearing yourself out.
If you’re traveling this holiday season, keep a few things in mind, such as the weather and elevation at your destination. Both factors can affect your breathing. If you use oxygen, be sure to bring it with you. For those flying, contact your airline to determine if your oxygen concentrator is approved for use inflight. Also, always pack medication in your carry-on bag instead of checked luggage. You never know when your bag may be delayed.
We often have high expectations for the holidays. But if you have pulmonary fibrosis, you may not always have the energy to do everything. It’s OK to say no to certain things, so you’ll have the energy to enjoy the things that really matter to you. For example, if spending time with your grandkids on Christmas morning is a must, don’t spend hours cleaning and cooking the day before.
The holidays can be stressful for some people. Make sure you take a little time for yourself and do something relaxing. Try to keep stress at bay. Remember, everything does not have to be perfect to be memorable.
Content written by Dr. Jeremy Feldman, an expert in Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, with contributions by MaryAnn DePietro, B.S. CRT, a licensed respiratory therapist.