Looking after someone with a lung condition

Practical tips for caring - daily life

In this section, we discuss:

Food and eating

It is important for people with a lung condition to eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight: good nutrition can prevent infections and keep the lungs healthy. It is essential to ensure they get the right nutrients, to help them better control their symptoms and lead a more active life.

It is important for someone with lung disease to:

  • Eat a healthy, nutritious diet
  • Eat food from the five key food groups in the correct amounts
  • Drink plenty of fluid (a minimum of six to eight cups of fluid a day – this can include water, juice, tea and coffee).

Read about healthy eating for lungs >

Exercise

For many people with long-term lung conditions, exercise can improve their ability to control breathlessness, boost confidence levels and help them rediscover activities they thought they could no longer do.

The best way to learn about exercising safely with a lung condition is through pulmonary rehabilitation (PR). The person you care for can enquire about a PR programme through their health care professional.

After they have finished a PR course, it’s good to keep up a healthy level of physical activity. One option is to work with a specialist respiratory instructor, who can provide safe exercise at the right level for the person you care for. There are hundreds of specialist respiratory instructors across the UK. Find an instructor or class near you.

You should be welcome to attend exercise classes with the person you care for. Speak to their health care professional before either of you start on a programme of exercise.

Read about exercising with a lung condition >

Smoking

If the person you care for is a smoker, giving up smoking is one of the most important things they can do for their health. But it’s difficult.

Studies show that you’re up to four times more likely to quit successfully with support from stop smoking services. If you smoke too, why not make a pact to give up together?

Read about quitting smoking >

Home environment

Even if you don’t share a house with the person you care for, you may need to make sure their home doesn’t make their health worse.

Almost all the air we breathe contains low levels of pollution – things like gases, dust, moulds and chemicals. Breathing it in can sometimes trigger breathing problems for people with lung conditions, particularly those with asthma, allergies, COPD and lung cancer. Indoor air is important as we spend about 90% of our time indoors.

One of the biggest causes of indoor air pollution is second-hand smoke. Tiny particles from tobacco smoke can drift all through a house, and can remain at harmful levels for up to five hours. If you or anyone else in the home smokes, it’s important to smoke well outside the house, closing the door behind you.

You can also help to control the indoor environment by keeping the home well ventilated, maintaining gas appliances and preventing water leaks to reduce moisture levels.

Tips:

  • don’t allow anyone to smoke inside your home
  • air your house for 5-10 minutes several times a day, especially during and after cooking and after taking a shower
  • keep your home as dust-free as possible
  • take care when using chemicals such as detergents, cleaning agents and air fresheners. Always ventilate well after you release chemicals into the air.

Read more about your home and your lungs >

Mobility and transport

Having a lung condition can make people less mobile. It can be more difficult doing everyday activities such as walking or climbing stairs and it can make using certain modes of transport challenging.

There are ways you can try to improve your mobility and that of the person you care for, including:

  • doing more physical activity together
  • learning the best and safest ways to handle the person you care for if you have to physically move them
  • exploring transport options: for example, plan journeys door-to-door in advance, apply for a Blue Badge (if you’re eligible), use travel companies’ accessibility offers, or use a mobility scooter to get about

Our helpline has lots of information about transport and mobility, including advice about Blue Badge parking, ideas for days out together, and information about aids, equipment and financial help with travel. You can call our helpline on 03000 030 555.

My mobility scooter has been a godsend. With a range of eight miles I can easily visit my sister. I don’t dread going out now, I can nip off while my husband looks in boring shops, and I’ve been to the coast a couple of times.” Kim, from our web community

Next: Looking after yourself >

Download our looking after someone with a lung condition PDF (322KB)

Last medically reviewed: November 2015. Due for review: November 2018

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.