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Your Guide to Coping with COPD in the Workplace

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) makes it difficult for people to breathe even while performing mundane activities. A job requiring some physical activity and talking with co-workers or clients can be highly challenging for a person diagnosed with COPD. They might even start wondering whether they can continue working or may have quit for good.

Unless your condition isn’t severely impacting your health and the quality of work you produce, you can continue working at your current employment. However, it would be best if you talked with your employer.

Talking to Your Employer about Your COPD Diagnosis

It won’t be an easy conversation, and you might even want to back out. However, it would help to talk to your employer about your diagnosis. COPD will affect all spheres of your life, including your job. You will no longer be able to perform extensive physical labor, and informing your employer is the first step to managing your COPD at work.

Your employer may not know much about COPD. So, you must explain how it is a chronic condition that affects your lungs, making breathing and regular activities difficult. It would mean that you may need to rest at work or even take some time off from work.

If your doctor has prescribed oxygen therapy as part of your treatment, you need to tell your employer that you’ll bring an oxygen tank when you come to work.

Tips for Managing COPD at Your Workplace

Apart from asking your employer for accommodations, you can take a couple of steps to make your job easier for you with COPD. Let’s take a look!

  1. Prioritize Your Fitness – If you want to continue working for as long as possible, you need to pay close attention to your fitness. If you haven’t already, join a specialized program immediately, where you can learn some pulmonary rehabilitation exercises to help you cope with your disease effectively.
  2. Don’t Miss Health-Related Appointments – If you have a lot of work to finish, you might be tempted to skip your pulmonary rehabilitation sessions or doctor’s appointments. But neglecting your health could only cost you in the long run. You must remember that your health comes before everything else. You must make time for all your appointments regularly to make sure you remain healthy for the longest time possible.
  3. Practice Different Breathing Techniques When Overwhelmed – Whenever you do something tiring, try out the diaphragmatic or pursed lip breathing techniques (often taught in your pulmonary rehab) to avoid getting breathless.
  4. Divide Your Big Tasks into Smaller Bits – If there is a potentially tiring task ahead of you, evaluate how much time you may need to complete it. Spread it across a couple of days, if possible, to finish it instead of working at it in one go.
  5. Optimize Your Baggage –You’ll be carrying things to work every day. If it is more than your lunch bag, you can invest in a luggage bag or briefcase on wheels to move all your items quickly without exerting your body.
  6. Maintain Good Body Posture – Because poor body posture can significantly affect your breathing, you must avoid slumping in front of your desk throughout the day. Keep your back straight, and let your diaphragm expand.

Closing Thoughts

When COPD gets severe and starts disrupting your performance at your job, you may have to quit working. In that case, you can seek disability benefits using your Social Security Administration (SSA). It would typically include childcare, medical bills, rent, medications, groceries, and specialized training if you want to return to work.

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and situation. They can help you understand the process and gather the necessary paperwork needed for your application.