How to Make the Most of Summer Despite Pulmonary Fibrosis
Following my idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) diagnosis in 2016, I had many fears.
As an avid traveler, my No. 1 fear was being put on supplemental oxygen and losing the ability to fly. I also feared that using oxygen would prevent me from partaking in many of the outdoor physical activities I had once enjoyed.
As much as I hate to admit it, oxygen does limit some activities. However, with planning and proper usage, patients who rely on supplemental oxygen can still enjoy many different activities. This weekend, for example, I went kayaking with friends and stored my small D-size oxygen tank in the kayak compartment. With breaks, I was able to enjoy time on the water.
It’s hard to believe this is the second summer affected by COVID-19. As restrictions begin to ease in the U.S. and parts of the world, many outdoor activities are safely resuming, and I plan to take full advantage of them, despite living with IPF.
Without a doubt, my favorite season is summer, even though the heat and humidity worsen my breathing. I feel energized by the sun and longer days, and thoroughly enjoy watching the sun set over the lake at our family cottage. When my symptoms are well managed, I spend most of my days outdoors during the summer months.
Summer also brings a sense of ease in both my professional and personal life, which I look forward to throughout the year. Since a lot of my work is with schools and they break for the summer, referrals for support slow down, and everyone seems a little more lax. Additionally, most people I know are in a better mood with the nicer weather.
Since the summer months tend to fly by more quickly each year, I am intentionally choosing to enjoy as much of them as I can, despite IPF. Following are some of the ways you can enjoy outdoor activities while living with IPF or supplemental oxygen.
Plan ahead for time outdoors
Oftentimes, heat can trigger shortness of breath and cough in IPF patients, so it’s important to plan for time outdoors if it’s hot. I no longer go anywhere without my inhalers and take them proactively ahead of any physical activities during the warm summer months.
If I am spending long periods of time outdoors or in the sun, I often also use cooling blankets. These can be purchased online and are great for cooling down your body temperature quickly. I also use my oxygen as needed to ensure my body doesn’t get too tired while spending time outdoors in the summer. Click here for tips to keep your oxygen tank safe in the sun, and don’t forget your sunscreen.
Embrace a new hobby
Living with a life-threatening lung disease like IPF can be hard to accept and often wreaks havoc on our mental health. Summer is the perfect opportunity to look for new hobbies and do something different. This summer, I am embracing kayaking, even if I have to do it with oxygen.
Being on the water is so relaxing for me, and it does wonders for my mental health. Since kayaking is a relatively low-energy activity, I look forward to creatively storing my oxygen tank in the kayak and keeping up with my friends.
Additionally, don’t forget to eat all of the delicious summer foods that are best enjoyed throughout the upcoming months, like ice cream and fresh fruit. Get outdoors, maximize time with friends, and don’t let supplemental oxygen interfere with your ability to make the most of this beautiful season.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.