How To Drive Safely If You Suffer From Breathing Difficulties

Being able to drive is imperative for many people. Disabled people in particular need to get around from point A to B seamlessly, and being able to do that in their own personal vehicle is often the only way they’re able to get where they’re going.

For those who suffer from breathing difficulties, getting behind the wheel of a car can be daunting. Respiratory illnesses can cause many debilitating symptoms that can hinder a person’s ability to drive safely, such as:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Stubborn cough
  • Chest pain

That doesn’t mean that people who suffer from this specific type of illness can’t safely operate a vehicle. They just simply have to be more mindful of how they do so, when they do so, and what they can do while their driving to ensure a safe arrival.

Dr Handicap - elderly people driving
Image by Wonderlane on Unsplash: Taking shorter trips while dealing with a lung disease can help you to determine how well you manage your lung disease while driving.

Driving with a respiratory illness

Driving isn’t usually a strenuous activity in and of itself, so many people who suffer from breathing difficulties find that they are able to drive without much effort. But there are some things that a person suffering a respiratory illness does need to take into account while they’re driving. For example, for someone with frequent coughing fits, being able to pull over may be helpful to keep them safe and focused while they’re on the road.

If the respiratory illness is new, taking short trips at first can be the best way to feel out how long you can be behind the wheel before symptoms come on that could hinder your ability to drive safely.

Can I get a disabled parking permit if I have breathing difficulties?

Depending on your illness, it is likely that you can get a disabled parking permit if you suffer from lung disease or another illness that causes breathing problems. Symptoms of respiratory illnesses, such as difficulty walking for long periods of time, can be avoided by the use of a parking permit, which reduces your need to walk longer distances between your vehicle and the place you’re going.

Specific illnesses that often qualify for parking permits include:

  • COPD
  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Emphysema
  • Airway obstruction
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Asthma
  • Hypertension

Parking pass availability will vary from state to state, and the severity of your condition will also play a key factor in whether or not you qualify. It’s always a good idea to speak to your doctor about your condition and find out local laws and application processes to ensure that you qualify for a parking permit in your area.

Breathing difficulties while driving: what you should do

If you are out on the road and find yourself experiencing worsening symptoms, it’s important to remember certain tips that will keep you and others safe while you are behind the wheel.

For coughing that lasts an extended period of time, pulling over in a safe place and allowing it to pass is the best bet to ensure that you can keep your concentration on the road ahead of you and other drivers. If you experience lots of sputum while coughing, you’ll want to have a handkerchief within safe reaching distance at all times.

You should also avoid any lung irritants, such as smoking, while behind the wheel of your car to help limit exacerbation of your condition. Knowing how your condition affects you and at what times it is at its worst will also give you the upper hand when it comes to knowing the best times to drive. If you are on oxygen, it’s also possible to adapt your car to carry your tank with you in a safe manner so that any sudden stops or jolts don’t cause it to become dislodged from its position and pose any problems.

Dr Handicap - drive safely
Image by Jackson David on Unsplash: Shortness of breath in cars can cause the driver to lose concentration, so it’s important to know how to safely travel while dealing with a lung condition.

Being able to drive yourself around is a level of freedom that everyone deserves to have. Breathing difficulties can be a debilitating part of daily life for those with lung conditions, but they don’t have to lead to the complete loss of your ability to drive. Getting a parking permit if you qualify can help you limit any excess walking that may be required to get from the parking lot to your destination. Get to know your illness and how it affects you, and you will be equipped with everything you need to know when it comes to driving while experiencing a lung issue that causes breathing difficulties.

Featured image by Tim Foster on Unsplash

5 Things You Should Know About Disabled Parking If You’re On Oxygen Support

Disabled parking permits exist to help make people’s lives a little bit easier with convenient and accessible parking. If you’re living with a condition that requires you to use portable oxygen, it’s likely already somewhat difficult for you to get around.

With a handicap placard in hand, you can actually conserve your energy for other tasks. Here’s a list of things you should know about disabled parking on oxygen support.

1. There are a variety of illnesses that result in the need for oxygen.

Why might someone require the use of portable oxygen? In a healthy individual, oxygen passes from the lungs into the bloodstream and is pumped by the heart to the rest of the body. However, when lung or heart disease is present, this process isn’t able to take place as effectively.

Illnesses that can result in the need for supplemental oxygen include:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Heart failure
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Lung disease
  • Trauma to the respiratory system

With these conditions, patients can experience difficulty breathing, fatigue, confusion, etc. Using supplemental O2 can help increase the oxygen that is passed into the bloodstream and then carried to the organs and tissues. If you have any of these medical conditions, you might require the use of oxygen, and you could benefit from a handicap placard.

Dr Handicap - road
Image by Alberto Frias on Unsplash: Requiring supplemental oxygen shouldn’t make you feel like you can’t hit the open road when you want to.

2. Getting a handicap parking permit when you’re on oxygen support is fairly easy.

Handicap placards are issued to individuals who have undergone a medical certification process and have shown that their mobility is limited because of a physical illness. The application process is pretty straightforward. You just need to get an application from your state’s DMV (they can typically be found online) and complete it with the help of your physician.

Once you send in your application and it’s approved by the DMV, you’ll get a handicap placard that gives you access to better parking places. There are sometimes additional perks depending on your location, such as free on-street metered parking or no time limits even when signs are posted.

3. You should check with your DMV to find out if you’re permitted to drive while using oxygen.

While you’re free to use your handicap placard as a passenger any time, there are some states that do not allow you to operate a vehicle if you’re currently using oxygen. This is because the DMV might view you as an unsafe driver (in the event that you pass out from low oxygen levels or somehow endanger other drivers because of your oxygen use).

Even if your state doesn’t allow you to drive, you can still benefit from getting a placard when you ride as a passenger and need access to convenient parking places.

4. There are several steps to traveling safely with an oxygen tank.

If you’re driving, make sure that there’s no way your oxygen tank can tip over. It’s recommended to put the tank in the seat next to you and put a seatbelt on it so it won’t fall over if you have to stop suddenly. If someone is sitting in the passenger seat, put the oxygen concentrator on the floor by their feet so your cannula can still reach your nose. Never put your O2 behind you. If it were to malfunction in some way, it would be dangerous for you to try and reach for it.

While out on the road, always leave a window open slightly for ventilation so the oxygen won’t accumulate in your vehicle. Most importantly, make sure your concentrator’s battery is always fully charged when you leave your house. If the battery dies while you’re out, you could end up having a medical emergency. To be extra cautious, purchase a car charger to avoid this scenario. You never know when you’ll have to take an unplanned detour or spend more time out on the road than you imagined.

Dr Handicap - disabled parking spots
Image by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash: Take advantage of close parking places with a handicap parking permit while you require oxygen.

5. There are a few things to remember about handicap parking on oxygen support.

Wondering how to park when you’re on oxygen support? Remember that it’s crucial to never leave your portable oxygen in your car when you’re not there. Heat damage can result in a permanently ruined unit that will require you to purchase another one. It’s always best to carry your oxygen with you when you leave your car, even if you don’t need it.

In terms of parking, the best place to park if you’re on oxygen support is as close to the entrance of the location as possible so that you have the shortest distance to walk. Your handicap parking permit can help you do just that. Stick to parking in designated wheelchair-accessible spots whenever possible so that you have enough space to get in and out of your vehicle with your oxygen tank.

Your usage of supplemental oxygen shouldn’t keep you from living a full life. Apply for a handicap placard to get more accessible parking places and use your tank responsibly. Then it’s still quite possible for you to venture out into the world anytime you wish!

Featured image by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

Qualifying Conditions For A Disabled Parking Permit: Lung Or Pulmonary Disorders