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Copd (chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung disease that makes it hard for you to breathe. It is usually a result of lung damage caused by years of irritation and inflammation in your lungs.


Call 911 if:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You are confused, dizzy, or feel faint.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
  • You cough up blood.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have more shortness of breath than usual.
  • You need more medicine than usual to control your symptoms.
  • You are coughing or wheezing more than usual.
  • You are coughing up more mucus, or it is a different color or has a different odor.
  • You gain more than 3 pounds in a week.
  • You have a fever, a runny or stuffy nose, and a sore throat, or other cold or flu symptoms.
  • Your skin, lips, or nails start to turn blue.
  • You have swelling in your legs or ankles.
  • You are very tired or weak for more than a day.
  • You notice changes in your mood, or changes in your ability to think or concentrate.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


  • Medicines may be used to open your airways, decrease swelling and inflammation in your lungs, or treat an infection. You may need 2 or more medicines. A short-acting medicine relieves symptoms quickly. Long-acting medicines will control or prevent symptoms. Ask for more information about the medicines you are given and how to use them safely.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Help make breathing easier:

  • Use pursed-lip breathing any time you feel short of breath. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Slowly breathe out through your mouth with your lips pursed for twice as long as you inhaled. You can also practice this breathing pattern while you bend, lift, climb stairs, or exercise. It slows down your breathing and helps move more air in and out of your lungs.
    Breathe in Breathe out
  • Do not smoke, and avoid others who smoke. Nicotine and other substances can cause lung irritation or damage and make it harder for you to breathe. Do not use e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. For support and more information:
      Phone: 1- 800 - 784-8669
      Web Address:
  • Be aware of and avoid anything that makes your symptoms worse. Stay out of high altitudes and places with high humidity. Stay inside, or cover your mouth and nose with a scarf when you are outside during cold weather. Stay inside on days when air pollution or pollen counts are high. Do not use aerosol sprays such as deodorant, bug spray, and hair spray.

Manage COPD and help prevent exacerbations:

COPD is a serious condition that gets worse over time. A COPD exacerbation means your symptoms suddenly get worse. It is important to prevent exacerbations. An exacerbation can cause more lung damage. COPD cannot be cured, but you can take action to feel better and prevent COPD exacerbations:

  • Protect yourself from germs. Germs can get into your lungs and cause an infection. An infection in your lungs can create more mucus and make it harder to breathe. An infection can also create swelling in your airways and prevent air from getting in. You can decrease your risk for infection by doing the following:
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water. Carry germ-killing gel with you. You can use the gel to clean your hands when soap and water are not available.
    • Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth unless you have washed your hands first.
    • Always cover your mouth when you cough. Cough into a tissue or your shirtsleeve so you do not spread germs from your hands.
    • Try to avoid people who have a cold or the flu. If you are sick, stay away from others as much as possible.
  • Drink more liquids. This will help to keep your air passages moist and help you cough up mucus. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
  • Exercise daily. Exercise for at least 20 minutes each day to help increase your energy and decrease shortness of breath. Walking or riding a bike are good ways to exercise. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Ask about vaccines. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you get regular flu and pneumonia vaccines. Pneumonia can become life-threatening for a person who has COPD. Ask about other vaccines you may need.Ask your healthcare provider about the flu and pneumonia vaccines. All adults should get the flu (influenza) vaccine every year as soon as it becomes available. The pneumonia vaccine is given to adults aged 65 or older to prevent pneumococcal disease, such as pneumonia. Adults aged 19 to 64 years who are at high risk for pneumococcal disease also should get the pneumococcal vaccine. It may need to be repeated 1 or 5 years later.

Pulmonary rehabilitation:

Your healthcare provider may recommend a program to help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. It may include nutritional counseling and exercise to strengthen your lungs.

Make decisions about your choices for future treatment:

Ask for information about advanced medical directives and living wills. These documents help you decide and write down your choices for treatment and end-of-life care. It is best to complete them when you feel well and can think clearly about your wishes. The information can then be kept for future use if you are in the hospital or become very ill.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need more tests. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a pulmonary (lung) specialist. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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