Living with IPF

There are some simple things you can do to live a healthier life with IPF.

This section looks at some of them, including managing your symptoms, staying well, and looking to the future.


How can I manage my symptoms?

Managing breathlessness

Feeling breathless can be frustrating or scary. Learning how to manage your breathlessness can help you feel less frustrated or anxious.

One simple way to manage your breathlessness is to pace yourself.

  • Pacing means to take your time and not rush. This takes some planning.
  • Pacing means choosing what activities are important and doing them. Other activities might be put off to another time, or perhaps someone else can complete them.
  • If you would like to learn more about pacing download our Guide to living with IPF.

Another simple way is breath control.

  • Controlling your breath means paying attention to your breathing and slowing it down. Fast breathing makes you feel breathless. Feeling breathless can make you feel anxious. Feeling anxious can make you breathe faster. This creates vicious cycle. Breath control stops the cycle.
  • If you would like to know more about breath control, click here for a video available from the American Lung Association.

Managing cough

A cough that won’t quit is troubling and can impact your social life. Sadly, there is no medication that will completely stop the coughing due to IPF.

Some things you can do to help reduce the cough include:

  • Quit smoking. Stay away from secondhand smoke. Working with a Certified Tobacco Educator or other cessation counselor can help you develop a plan to manage your exposure to smoke. Click here for help.
  • Avoid irritants. Work with your health care team to find out if there are things in your environment (home, work, or play) that are causing the cough. They can help you develop ways to avoid these things.
  • Relaxation and breathing control. Having a chronic cough that interferes with day-to-day life and social activities can be frustrating. For many people, breathing control and relaxation helps lessen the cough and anxiety. Check page 29 in the Canadian Lung Association’s Guide to living with IPF for more information on relaxation.    

Your healthcare team might explore other causes of a chronic cough. These include:

  • Checking to see if something else is causing the cough, for example, postnasal drip, acid reflux (heartburn).
  • Finding if there is a medication you take that as causing the cough, for example a blood pressure medication.

How do I prevent getting sick?

There are several things that you can do to stay as healthy as possible. These include simple things and not so simple things. First, let’s take a quick look at some simple things you can do:

  • Wash your hands properly can help you from getting an infection. To learn when to your hands click here . For a poster on how to properly wash your hands, click here.
  • Stay away from people who have a cold or the flu or other diseases you can catch. Ask your family and friends to visit you when they are well.
  • Speak to your health care team about the flu shot and pneumonia shot. You need a flu shot every year. There are two types of pneumonia shot. You may need both. Your team can help you decide what is best for you.
  • Eat healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein every day. You may need to eat smaller meals and snacks to help your breathing. Speak to your healthcare team about eating for lung health.
  • Get regular exercise. This can be as simple as walking for at least 150 minutes a week. Or 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Your healthcare team can help you develop a plan.
  • Keep good sleeping habits. Having routine sleeping times is helpful. Not drinking too much caffeine (coffee, tea, pop with caffeine) or eating chocolate before bed can help. Relaxation exercises, taking a bath, listening to music, or reading a book before bed can help.

The not so easy thing you can do is to stay away from things that make your symptoms worse. Things like smoke, chemicals, weather, stress and emotions.

  • The best thing you can do for your lungs is to quit smoking. For most people, this is hard work. Ask your health care team for information about programs and medicines that can help make it easier. Your lungs and the rest of your body will thank you for quitting. For more information on quitting smoking, see Lung.ca/tobacco.
  • Avoid from things you breathe in that can cause symptoms. This includes:
    • Secondhand smoke – don’t allow anyone to smoke in your home or car.
    • Smog or air pollution – try to stay indoors on bad air days. Take your walks or exercise in parks, away from vehicle exhaust.
    • Strong odours and chemicals. Choose cleaning products with less chemicals if you can.
    • Avoid exercising outdoors on very cold and very hot days.
  • Manage your stress and emotions. Having a chronic lung disease is stressful. Being breathless can cause anxiety. Emotional stress, like excitement or anger, can cause breathlessness. You can break the cycle of breathlessness and anxiety using some relaxation techniques. See page 29 in the Canadian Lung Association’s Guide to living with IPF for more information on relaxation.


When should I seek medical help?

If you and your health care team have developed a plan to manage a flare-up of your symptoms, follow your plan.

If you do not have a plan for a flare-up of your symptoms, you should contact someone on your healthcare team if your symptoms are worse for 2 days (48 hours). This means call your team if:

  • You are more breathless doing usual things for 2 days. OR
  • Your cough is worse for 2 days. OR
  • You’re coughing up sputum or phlegm that is coloured.
  • You have a fever with your cough or breathlessness.
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Page Last Updated: 05/08/2021