In my household, fall chores include staying on top of my health

'Tis the season for preparing for winter for this columnist

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by Caroline Gainer |

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The leaves are starting to change colors here in West Virginia, which means it’s time to start getting ready for winter. Some of these seasonal preparations concern the house and the car, while others involve my health. Fall is another reminder that those of us with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) must take care of ourselves to avoid exacerbations.

I have just completed one of my fall tasks: cleaning my car. This used to take about two hours of my day, but now it takes four because I have to take breaks to recover my blood oxygen saturation level. The exertion of washing the car and bending over to vacuum in tight places causes my oxygen saturation level to drop. I may also hold my breath as I tend to do when concentrating.

I tried to keep the breaks from being a total waste of time by making a grocery store list and ordering tomato seeds. I needed to adjust my attitude because resting should be a beneficial use of time.

Job number two also has to do with my car. I always take the car in for an oil change and wellness check this time of the year. I have the tires rotated and the air pressure checked. These things are done so that the vehicle will work properly during the fall and winter months.

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The third job is an annual health checkup. Fortunately, I can go to a clinic about an hour from my house and get all the necessary evaluations, vaccinations, and other procedures. The day begins around 8 a.m. and lasts about five hours.

Bloodwork is the first item of the day, followed by a urine sample. A meeting is scheduled with the attending physician, who orders any other tests that are necessary. Smokers or former smokers get a low-dose computed tomography scan of the chest to screen for lung cancer. Women get Pap tests and mammograms.

Other procedures, such as bone density tests, pulmonary function tests, ultrasounds, and electrocardiograms, are performed as needed. Those of us with small bones are at risk of osteoporosis, so I get a bone density test every other year.

I also get my flu shot, along with any vaccine boosters I might need. This year, I left my appointment with a prescription for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine and a reminder to get my COVID-19 booster. I got the prescription because my doctor feared that the health insurance company wouldn’t pay for it without a prescription, and the clinic doesn’t have COVID-19 shots on hand.

The car and I should be in good working condition for the coming winter season. The vehicle had an oil change, and major operating systems were checked and adjusted as necessary. I had my tests and vaccinations, so I should be ready for the upcoming season, too.

As for my home, I still need to turn off the outside faucets and drain them, check my battery backup and solar system, and ensure my alternate heating source is working correctly.

Our vehicles, homes, and bodies must all be cared for and adjusted as needed. The fall season reminds me that I need to take care of these issues.

Note: COPD News Today 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 COPD News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.