Interstitial Lung Disease: Conserving Energy

Woman sitting while chopping vegetables, with man in background.

Interstitial lung disease is a group of conditions with inflammation and scarring around the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. The changes make it hard to take in oxygen.

In many cases the cause is unknown (called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis). But different things can cause this condition, including:

  • Conditions such as sarcoidosis and rheumatoid arthritis

  • Breathing in certain substances like mold, fungus, or asbestos

  • Some medicines and radiation treatments

When you have interstitial lung disease, it may be hard for you to breathe. Conserving your energy can help you stay active and breathe better. Think of ways to make things easier and take your time to lessen shortness of breath.

Simplify tasks

  • Sit whenever possible, and keep your arms close to your body. Use slow, smooth motions.

  • Keep the things you use most close to waist level, so you can get them without reaching or bending.

  • Use devices that make things easier such as electric can openers, reachers or grabbers, and long-handled items like shoe horns.

  • Use lightweight, nonstick pots and pans to cook. Soak, rather than scrub, dirty dishes. Air-dry dishes, or use a dishwasher.

  • Mix, cook, serve, and store foods in the same dish.

  • Use a cart with wheels to move dishes and other household items.

  • Think about ways that others can help you. You might get help from friends, family members, or home health aides.

Pace yourself

  • Plan your time so that your tasks are spaced throughout the day.

  • Switch between hard tasks and easy ones. And allow plenty of time so that you don’t have to hurry.

  • Take 20-to-30-minute rest breaks after meals and throughout the day.

  • Sit on a bench to bathe. Dry off by wrapping yourself in a heavy robe.

  • Sit to dress and undress, shave, brush your teeth, and comb your hair.

  • Use steps slowly, pausing at each step. If you have steps outside or in your home, think about adding ramps or stair lifts.

  • Ask the checker at the supermarket to pack your grocery bags so they are light and easy to carry.

Talk with your healthcare provider about:

  • The possibility of using supplemental oxygen.

  • A referral to occupational and physical therapy. Therapists can help you with exercise, daily activities, and making things easier.