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Copd: Prevent Exacerbations

AMBULATORY CARE:

An exacerbation of COPD is when your symptoms get much worse very quickly. Exacerbations can be triggered by infections such as a cold or the flu. Lung irritants such as air pollution, dust, fumes, or smoke can also trigger an exacerbation. Exacerbations of COPD can be life-threatening.

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.

Do not 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 without first talking to your healthcare provider. They still contain nicotine. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. For support and more information:

  • Smokefree.gov
    Phone: 1- 800 - 784-8669
    Web Address: www.smokefree.gov

Avoid lung irritants:

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.

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.

Take your medicines as directed:

Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to treat an infection or help you breathe easier. It is important that you take your medicines as directed to prevent an exacerbation. Refill your medicines before you are out so that you do not miss a dose. Ask your healthcare provider if you have any questions on how to take your medicines.

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.To prevent influenza (flu), all adults should get the influenza vaccine every year as soon as it becomes available. The pneumococcal 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 5 years later.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.

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