Creating an Action Plan for COPD Flare-Ups

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by Wendy Henderson |

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If you live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it’s essential you have an action plan for flare-ups.  According to, actions plans serve three purposes: to help prevent flare-ups, to realize when you’re having a flare-up, and what to do when you’re experiencing a flare-up.

MORE: Six ways to help you take care of your lungs

The best course of action is to try and prevent flare-ups from occurring in the first place. While you won’t always be successful, putting into practice good health habits will help.

Here are a few ways you can help prevent flare-ups:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Taking medication as directed
  • Eating healthily
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Resting well
  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding people who are ill
  • Washing your hands regularly
  • Avoiding lung irritants like pollution, dust, pet dander, secondhand smoke
  • Getting yearly flu and pneumonia vaccinations

MORE: Five steps to a COPD-friendly diet.

The sooner you realize you’re experiencing a flare, the quicker you can deal with it and lessen the severity. Here are the most common warning signs to look out for:

  • Persistent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Increase in mucus
  • Change in mucus color
  • Fever
  • Headaches first thing in the morning
  • Swelling of the legs or ankles
  • Bluish tinge to lips or nailbeds

MORE: COPD patients talk about exacerbations and lung infections.

When you realize that you’re having a flare, it’s important to take the following steps to ensure your flare is treated as quickly as possible. Speak with your healthcare team to come up with a viable action plan that can be implemented easily.

Here are some things you’ll need to think about:

  • Do you need a rescue inhaler, nebulizer treatments or other prescribed medications such as antibiotics or steroids?
  • Will you need supplementary oxygen?
  • Are there any breathing exercises that can help calm you down and aid breathing?
  • Should you stop what you’re doing and rest?
  • Know when to see a doctor, visit the emergency room or call 911. This is usually if you’re experiencing chest pain, feeling confused or agitated, or are struggling to breathe.

MORE: How best to deal with exacerbations and COPD flare-ups. 

COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.