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COPD Program

Click on the following links to find out more information about COPD:

What is COPD?
How do I know if I have COPD?
What is a spirometry test?
How do I manage my COPD?
What can trigger my breathing to flare up?
When should I call my doctor?
When should I call 911?

What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)  is a condition that causes decreased amount of air flow out of your lungs.  This makes it harder to breathe.  COPD gets worse with time, but there are many drugs to help manage your breathing problems. 
Exercise, planned rest breaks and breathing exercises are all important lifestyle changes that can help you feel better. 

How do I know if I have COPD?

Millions of people have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and they are not aware of it.  People do not always tell their doctor that they are coughing or having trouble breathing.  When a person gets winded walking up stairs, they may just think they are out of shape or getting older.  If you have a chronic cough and shortness of breath  you should discuss this with your doctor.  Your doctor can order a spirometry test to find out if you have COPD.

What is a spirometry test?

A spirometry breathing test will show how much air you can breathe into your lungs and how fast you can blow it out.   This will tell your doctor if you have any blockage of air flow.  This test will be recorded and put on a graph for your doctor to read.

How do I manage my COPD?

  • Breathing Medicines
    Use your inhalers as your doctor ordered.  This will help reduce your chances of having to go to the hospital.  Ask your doctor or pharmacist to show you how to use your inhalers properly.
  • Exercise
    Daily exercise is recommended for everyone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).   Do not be worried that it will make you more short of breath.  If you do not exercise, your muscles will become weak and you will have more trouble breathing.  If your muscles are strong, then you will be able to do more without getting as short of breath.  Talk to your doctor about an exercise program.
  • Oxygen Therapy
    Sometimes people with COPD need oxygen, but they are embarrassed to use it, or they don’t like being attached to a machine. There is an upside to using oxygen though.  It can help you to breathe better and be more active.  It may even help you live longer!  If your doctor ordered oxygen for you,  it is important to use it  exactly as prescribed.  Do not turn the flow rate up higher when you have trouble breathing as it may not help, and it could even be harmful.  If you are using your oxygen as your doctor ordered and you are still having trouble breathing, you should call your doctor right away. 
  • Breathing Exercises
    Ask your doctor to show you how to do pursed lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing.  These breathing techniques can help you breathe easier when you feel short of breath.  You will need to practice these techniques so that you are ready to use them when you need them.
  • Nutrition
    It is important to eat a healthy diet.  This can help to keep your muscles strong so that you can breathe better.  It can help your body fight off germs.  Drink a lot of fluids to keep your mucus thin so that it is easier to cough up.  
  • Conserve Energy
    Make sure you get enough sleep.  This will help to give you more energy during the day.  It’s a good idea to plan your daily activities so that you are not doing all of your hard chores at once.   Try to space them out as this will help you to conserve energy.  Also remember that eating a meal uses energy, so it’s important to rest for about 20 or 30 minutes before you decide to do another activity.  You can also take advantage of the opportunity to do activities while you are sitting. For example, you may be able to sit while drying your hair or shaving.  If you get tired, remember you can finish the activity at another time. It’s fine to stop and take a rest and to ask family or friends for help.  

What Can Trigger My Breathing To Flare Up? 

The following is a list of triggers that can cause your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to flare up so it is important that you avoid these triggers:

  • Smoking
    Quitting smoking is the most important change you can make to help yourself.   It’s never too late to quit!  Quitting smoking can help to slow down the progress of lung damage.   If you are still smoking, ask your doctor to help you quit.   Ask family members to smoke outside the house.  You can also get help by calling 1-800-748-8669 or 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
  • Indoor and outdoor pollution
    Do not be around smoke,  aerosol sprays, strong chemicals or other irritants or allergens.   Listen to the television and radio for warnings about poor air quality or ozone alerts.  Try to stay indoors when the pollution levels are high.  If you don’t have air conditioning, try to escape the heat by going to someplace cool such as a recreation center, library, senior center or the mall. 
  • Lung infections
    Infections can cause you to have a flare of your COPD.  You should get a yearly flu shot.  To make getting care easier, you can get your flu shot at your doctor’s office or at many large pharmacies.  You should also ask your doctor about a pneumonia vaccine.  Wash your hands often and do not touch your face, especially your eyes.  Avoid going to crowded places in the winter so that you don’t expose yourself to other people’s germs.  
  • Weather
    Cold air can dry your airways and irritate your lungs.  You should cover your mouth with a scarf to help warm the air so that you can breathe easier.   It is also helpful to breathe through your nose instead of your mouth when you are in the cold weather.   In the summer the heat and humidity can make it hard to breathe.  When it is very hot and humid you should stay in doors and use an air conditioner if possible. 
  • Stress and anxiety
    When a person has difficulty breathing it can make them feel stressed and they may panic.  This will make the breathing problem worse.  Try to avoid the panic stage by stopping what you are doing and relaxing.  Do purse lipped breathing to help your breathing and use your rescue inhaler as your doctor ordered.

When Should I Call My Doctor?

It is important that you pay close attention to your symptoms.  Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following: 

  • More trouble breathing, chest tightness or wheezing
  • A change  in your cough
  • A change in the amount, thickness, or color of your mucus
  • Fever or chills
  • Swelling in your legs or belly is increased
  • Your medicines are not working as well as they used to

When Should I Call 911?

You should call 911 for any of the following:

  • Confusion
  • You used rescue inhaler but it didn’t help
  • Chest pain