A COPD flare-up happens when COPD symptoms get worse, or when new symptoms develop. Flare-ups are also called exacerbations.
Flare-ups are one of the biggest reasons why people with COPD become disabled or have to be hospitalized. Flare-ups can be deadly.
To manage your COPD, you need to know:
How to prevent COPD flare-ups
Take good care of yourself. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly and get enough sleep. Staying healthy will help your body fight infections.
Wash your hands properly and often to reduce your chance of picking up germs and getting sick. This page explains all the steps of proper handwashing.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Many people catch colds, flu, and other contagious respiratory (lung) infections by touching their face. They don't realize that there are germs on their hands that can make them sick.
Stay away from people who are sick.
Take all of the medications prescribed by your doctor. Ask for help if you have questions about how or when to take medications or what they're for.
Ask your doctor for a personalized written COPD action plan. A COPD action plan gives written instructions from your doctor on what to do when your symptoms flare up. Your COPD action plan will tell you what extra medicine to take, when to call the doctor, and when to go to the emergency department. Here is a blank COPD action plan (PDF) that you can fill out with your doctor.
Get your flu shot every year. Ask your doctor if you need a pneumonia shot.
Avoid triggers that can make COPD worse, like air pollution, tobacco smoke and breathing very cold or very humid air.
Warning signs and symptoms of a COPD flare-up:
An unusual increase in shortness of breath
Mucus (phlegm) that is more yellow, green or brown than usual
An increase in the amount, thickness or stickiness of your mucus (phlegm)
Symptoms of a cold, such as a head ache, runny nose, or sore throat