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Copd Exacerbation, Ambulatory Care

A COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ) exacerbation

is a flare up or worsening of COPD.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • A dry cough
  • Coughing fits that bring up mucus from your lungs
  • Wheezing and chest tightness

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Confusion, dizziness, or lightheadedness
  • Red, swollen, warm arm or leg
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Coughing up blood

Treatment for a COPD exacerbation

may include medicines to help decrease swelling and inflammation in your lungs. Medicines may also help open your airways or treat and infection. You may need pulmonary rehabilitation to help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. You may need extra oxygen to help you breathe easier.

Prevent another exacerbation:

  • Do not smoke, and avoid others who smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. You may have fewer exacerbations. Ask for information about medicines and support programs that can help you quit.
  • Avoid triggers that make your symptoms worse. Cold weather and sudden temperature changes can trigger an exacerbation. Fumes from cars and chemicals, air pollution, and perfume can also increase your symptoms.
  • Use pursed-lip breathing when 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. Pursed-lip breathing slows down your breathing and helps move more air in and out of your lungs.
    Breathe in Breathe out
  • Exercise for at least 20 minutes each day. Exercise can help increase your energy and decrease shortness of breath. Ask about the best exercise plan for you.
  • Prevent infections that can be dangerous when you have COPD. Get a flu vaccine every year as soon as it becomes available. Ask if you should also get other vaccines, such as those given to prevent pneumonia and tetanus. Avoid people who are sick, and wash your hands often.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.