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Living with COPD Series

Bathing, Grooming and Dressing

As simple as it may seem to most people, bathing and grooming for the COPDer requires a great deal of energy consumption and oxygen use. With some simple tips and help aids, this job can become much more manageable.

Bathing and Showering

  • If showering or bathing takes your breath away, no matter what you do, consider a bath stool. They are waterproof, lightweight, fit in tub or shower, easily removable and can serve a variety of purposes. You can find many kinds to fit your needs in a variety of places. Hardware and department stores carry them, as well as medical supply stores, and the cost may be less. It is recommended that you get one with an adjustable height, so you can set it to suit your needs.  They come with and without backs, as well as with and without arms. Search around for what will work best for you and your circumstances.

  • This chair can also be used for other grooming activities, such as giving yourself a pedicure, trimming your nails, shaving your legs or just to dry your legs after a bath or shower.

  • Consider purchasing a long-hosed, hand-held showerhead.  That way you can take the water to where you need it rather then moving around to get to the water.

  • If you use oxygen, please use it while bathing! You use a lot of oxygen to bathe, as already mentioned. Drape your tubing over the shower door or over the shower rod to help keep it out of the way.

  • Have a nice oversized terry robe to slip into when you get out of the tub or shower. It eliminates the effort of drying off completely and will allow you to catch your breath before going further.

  • Use long-handled sponges, brushes, scrubbers, puffs, whatever you prefer while bathing or showering to help eliminate all the extra bending and stretching.

  • Excess humidity that occurs while bathing or showering affects the breathing of many with lung disease.  If at all possible, leave the bathroom door open. Use your bathroom exhaust fan at all times and, if possible, crack a window as well.

  • Consider warm, not hot, baths or showers. The extreme heat can cause difficulty breathing, as well as very drying to our already compromised skin structure caused by some of our medications.

  • Some people find that washing their hair is easier done at the kitchen sink.

  • On days you feel exceptionally poor, a sink or basin bath can be taken in place of a full tub or shower and can be a lot less taxing.

  • If you feel you are somewhat unsteady, consider having grab bars attached in your bath or shower for extra safety and protection. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to install.

  • If getting on and off the commode is difficult for you, consider installing a grab bar or purchase a raised toilet seat. They also can be found in many places and come with arms as well as without. They are easy to install and easy to remove for ease of cleaning and visitors.


  • Standing bent over the bathroom sink to apply make up, manage hair or shaving is hard for some. It may be helpful to have a low mirror, where you can sit down to perform these tasks.

  • Have all grooming items easily accessible and within reach.

  • Avoid those items with strong scents. Perfumes, aftershave, colognes, soaps can all cause irritation to already compromised breathing.

  • Have a short self-care hairstyle. Elaborate hairstyles require tiresome setting, long use of blow dryers and maintenance. Find a nice hairstyle that is easy and simple to manage for you.

  • Remember that the use of all kinds of aerosols and sprays, except those prescribed for us by our doctors, is not recommended. We already have damaged lungs, so why add to that damage by inhaling potentially damaging propellants. Most of the items we use are readily available in pump, gel or roll-on formulas. Look for those that are unscented as well.


  • Think about your day the night before and lay out all the clothes you will need before hand. Have them all within easy reach while dressing.

  • Try sitting to dress if it makes you short of breath. Try dressing the lower part of your body first then just stand up once to pull all garments up. Then continue on to top half.

  • Use a long-handled reacher or sock aid if bending over causes extreme breathing difficulties.

  • You can place your underwear inside you slacks or pants, and put both on together.

  • Avoid tight, constricting and binding clothing. They all restrict chest and abdominal expansion and makes it more difficult to breathe. Avoid socks and stockings that have elastic bands that may restrict circulation. Not included is support hose that may be prescribed by your physician for edema or other medical reasons.

  • Men may find that suspenders are more comfortable then binding belts. Some opt for looser-fitting pants with an elastic band or sweat-pant style clothing.

  • Women may find that their bras have become more and more uncomfortable and restricting as well. Consider wearing a camisole as a comfortable and pretty alternative. For those more endowed, there is a wide variety of lightweight sports bras available. They are supportive, yet more comfortable.

  • Clothing and undergarments made of cotton are much more comfortable and cooler to wear then their synthetic counterparts. They also help to keep perspiration away from the body. As many of us are bothered by extreme heat, this can be a great help to us. Many stores and nationwide mail-order companies provide a wide range of clothing to fit our needs.

  • For those that tend to run more on the chilly side, great strides have been made in the last few years with lightweight, attractive "long johns" for both men and woman. These can be easily worn under loose-fitting clothing.

  • In general, unless a formal or semi-formal occasion requires it, go for comfort and ease of dressing when choosing your clothing.

  • Avoid tight-necked clothing as much as possible. Many of us now find that feeling almost strangling. Opt for open-buttoned shirts, scoop or v-neck or other similar non-restricting styles.

  • Shoes can be a problem for some. Bending over to put them on and or to lace them up. Consider a slip-on shoe. Use a long-handled shoehorn. If you want or need to wear tie-type shoes, consider using elastic laces.

Compiled by COPD-International Community Members

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Last modified: June 17, 2002