Respiratory Prevention

How can I prepare for possible respiratory problems?

Care Givers are often focused on the more common problems of MS such as spasticity, pain, mobility, and bladder and bowel impairment. It might only be when a person experiences a bout of pneumonia or has a choking episode that any attention is given to this area.  Knowing the signs and symptoms of respiratory involvement is important in avoiding crises, and dealing with difficult situations when they arise.

What specific things can I do to prevent respiratory problems?

  • Pay attention to respirations. Are they quiet, clear, and unlaboured?
  • How many breaths per minute does he/she take? The normal breaths per minute are usually in a range of 16 to 20.
  • Pay attention to how all medications affect breathing (do certain medications make the person sleepy or lessen the number/depth of respirations?). If so, do not give anything to eat or drink until he/she is more alert.
  • Encourage taking 10 deep breaths every hour to keep lungs clear.
  • Buy an inexpensive stethoscope and just listen to the lung sounds. They should be clear all throughout the chest.
  • If confined to bed, make sure the person is turned every 2 hours to improve oxygen flow.
  • Watch for difficulty chewing and/or swallowing food.
  • Keep sick individuals away (especially those with respiratory infections). If a Care Giver or a family member has a cold and must be in the same room, wear a mask.
  • Annual flu and pneumonia vaccines should be considered.
  • Have all family members who provide hands-on care take a course in CPR and learn the Heimlich Manoeuvre.

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