How COPD Patients can Reduce the Symptoms of Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is one of the less dramatic symptoms that COPD patients sometimes experience, but it is uncomfortable and disruptive nevertheless, especially when it’s severe enough to interrupt your sleep.

The technical word for dry mouth is xerostomia. It can wake you up with the feeling that your tongue, mouth, and throat are completely dried out, making it difficult to swallow. During the day, it might be less severe, but the effect can still cause discomfort and make chewing and swallowing food uncomfortable.

Luckily, in many cases, contributing factors can be identified and controlled, tamping down the dry mouth phenomenon. In other cases, such as when an essential medication causes dry mouth, a change in some daily habits or the use of mouth-moisturizing products can help to significantly reduce your dry mouth symptoms.

Contributing Factors to Dry Mouth

Consider these factors that might be contributing to your dry mouth symptoms:

  1. You may be taking antibiotics for an infection, and if so, it is necessary to complete your prescribed medication. However, some antibiotics can contribute to or cause dry mouth.
  2. Many antidepressants contribute to dry mouth.
  3. If you have a cold or allergies and are taking antihistamines to manage your runny nose or watery eyes, the medication can also inhibit your body’s ability to produce mucus, which can contribute to dry mouth.
  4. Inhaled bronchodilators. Both short-acting and long-acting inhaled bronchodilators, particularly anticholinergic bronchodilators, inhibit the production of saliva by your salivary glands, which can create or worsen dry mouth.
  5. If you’re taking diuretics, most likely you know that they expel excess water from your body through urination. But you may not know that they also can reduce the activity of your salivary glands and cause or worsen dry mouth.
  6. Sometimes oral or inhaled corticosteroids can be prescribed to relieve breathlessness and they, too, can cause or contribute to dry mouth.
  7. Oxygen therapy. Medical oxygen is moisture-free, so using it can dry out your nasal passages, mouth, and
  8. CPAP Leakage. If you sleep with a CPAP, you could be experiencing dry mouth or worsened dry mouth symptoms due to air leaking out of your nasal mask or nasal pillow.
  9. Since ingestion of alcohol can reduce your intake of water, it can contribute to dehydration, which can cause dry mouth. Even if you drink as much water as usual in addition to your alcohol consumption, the alcohol can still cause your mouth to dry out.
  10. Spicy or Salty Foods. Both spicy and salty foods are known to initiate drying of the oral membranes.

Tips and Treatments for Alleviating Dry Mouth

  1. Medication Changes. If you’re taking medications to help control your COPD symptoms, it’s important to tell your doctor if you’re experiencing dry mouth. It could be that an adjustment in dosage or a switch to another brand or form of your medication will reduce or eliminate the symptoms that you’re experiencing.
  2. Dry Mouth Products. You might want to try one or more of the following over-the-counter products to help alleviate your dry mouth symptoms:
    1. Biotene Dry Mouth Oral Rinse
    2. Oasis Mouthwash
    3. Biotene Dry Mouth Gel
    4. ACT Total Care Dry Mouth Lozenges
    5. Biotene Xylimelts
    6. Biotene Moisturizing Mouth Spray
  3. Daily Habits. Keep a water bottle with you at all times so that you can hydrate at the first sign of dry mouth. This can be especially helpful at night when dry mouth can progress to very uncomfortable levels before it wakens you from sleep.
  4. Humidifier Bottle Attachment for Medical Oxygen. If you’re using a continuous flow oxygen concentrator and you have dry mouth symptoms, you might want to try a humidifier bottle attachment, which adds moisture to the oxygen that you’re receiving.
  5. Stand-Alone Humidifier. A humidifier for your bedroom can go a long way toward reducing your dry mouth symptoms.
  6. CPAP Humidifier or Mask Adjustment. If you sleep with a CPAP machine and you experience dry mouth during the night, consider adding a heated humidifier attachment to your CPAP machine. If you currently use a nasal pillow, you might want to try switching to a face mask so that whether you sleep with your mouth open or not, you’ll still receive humidified air from your machine.

Information for this article was obtained from 1st Class Medical.


KEYWORDS: dry mouth, dry mouth and COPD, how to reduce dry mouth phenomenon, dry mouth during sleep, COPD and dry mouth, dry mouth treatments

  • Avatar
    Sandra MacFadyen
    Posted at 13:10h, 31 January Reply

    I was recently tested for anemia. What is the treatment for this…and how can I gain weight, since I have lost a substantial amount of weight with COPD

    • Avatar
      Posted at 12:51h, 05 February Reply

      Dr Casaburi just responded to another question on anemia, explaining how the treatment of anemia varies with the cause and the degree of anemia. Please go back and read that at http://blog.perf2ndwind.org/copd-can-lead-to-anemia-and-anemia-can-worsen-copd-exacerbations/. Your physician would decide your treatment based on your blood tests and your physical exam in order to advise you. Sometimes all that is needed is supplemental iron and some dietary suggestions.

      For treating weight loss specifically, suggestions and treatments depend on how underweight you are and why you might have lost weight. Sometimes weight loss indicates a serious underlying condition; be sure to discuss this with your physician. Do you get short of breath eating? Make it a point to eat more slowly. Try eating 5 small meals a day instead of just 3 regular ones. If you are on oxygen your physician might suggest that your oxygen flow be increased a bit. Does the smell of some foods trigger an increase in sputum and coughing? Avoiding certain foods might help with this. Do these problems embarrass you so you avoid eating with others or rush through your meal? Your physician might prescribe between meal and evening supplements such as Ensure, found in drug stores or some grocery stores. You can also request a consult with a dietician.

      Don’t underestimate the value of a referral to a pulmonary rehabilitation program! You can discuss all those problems with the staff; they have more time than your busy physician and can fine tune advice just for you. When patients were started on their exercise regime, I consistently found that as daily exercise increased, the coughing and sputum production of afflicted patients decreased while appetite and weight increased. And on the flip side, obese patients started losing weight! Everyone weighed themselves as they came into class so we could keep track of weight while also watching for unexpected gains due to fluid retention.

      We hope these few suggestions are of help for some of your problems.

      We wish you well!

      Mary Burns, RN, BS

  • Avatar
    Posted at 05:57h, 22 July Reply

    My mother is ILD patient and take contineuosly oxygen on 8 ltr . Her mouth become dry she have many problm to eat any thin becoz of mouth dry plz suggest any good medcn r gel ..
    She take delta cordril 2 tbl in morning

    • Avatar
      Harry Rossiter
      Posted at 12:58h, 22 July Reply

      Dear Memon,

      I would suggest you ask your oxygen provider, physician, and dentist for help and recommendations. Dry mouth can cause dental problems so dentists are concerned about this. Here are some of the things that have helped other patients:
      • drink plenty of fluids during the day
      • avoid salty foods
      • make sure the oxygen is going through a humidifier
      • keep water at the bedside and take frequent sips
      • suck on hard candies
      • try something like Biotene dry mouth spray that you can get at the drug store. This also comes as a gel or mouth rinse, but the spray seems to work the best. It is convenient and a few squirts seem to help immediately
      • if you have air conditioning or heat in the winter for her bedroom, a seperate room humidifier might help
      • remember than many fruits (such as watermelon) have a large percentage of water. If she is on fluid restriction, concerned about having get up to urinate too often at night, or sucking on hard (sugar free) candies hurts her mouth, try freezing grapes, or other pieces of fruit like watermelon, for her. Stick a toothpick in little watermelon squares for her to make them easier to eat. Grapes are more convenient.

      I hope some of these suggestions help. Your mother is fortunate to have you trying to help her.

      With best wishes,

      Mary Burns RN, BS

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