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    COPD: Handling a Flare-Up

    COPD: Handling a Flare-Up

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    Topic Overview

    If you have COPD , your usual shortness of breath could suddenly get worse. You may start coughing more and have more mucus. This flare-up is called a COPD exacerbation or a COPD attack.

    A respiratory tract infection or air pollution could set off an attack. Or it may happen after a quick change in temperature or being around chemicals. You may not always know the cause.

    What are the warning signs?

    When you have a COPD flare-up, your normal symptoms suddenly get worse:

    • You may have more shortness of breath and wheezing.
    • You may have more coughing with or without mucus .
    • You may have a change in the color or amount of the mucus.
    • You may have a fever.
    • You may feel very tired.
    • You may be depressed or confused.

    Don't panic

    Don't panic if you start to have a flare-up. If you are prepared, you may be able to get it under control. Work with your doctor to make a plan for dealing with a COPD attack.

    Take your medicines as your doctor says:

    • First, use your quick-relief inhaler. If your symptoms don't get better after you use your medicine, have someone take you to the emergency room. Call an ambulance if needed.
    • With inhaled medicines, a spacer or a nebulizer may help you get more medicine to your lungs. Ask your doctor or pharmacist how to use them properly. Practice using the spacer in front of a mirror before you have a flare-up. This may help you get the medicine into your lungs quickly.
    • If your doctor has given you steroid pills, take them as directed.

    Call 911 if:

    • You also are having chest pain.
    • You feel like you are suffocating.

    After treatment, most people recover.


    ByHealthwise Staff
    Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
    Specialist Medical Reviewer Ken Y. Yoneda, MD - Pulmonology

    Current as ofAugust 21, 2015

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