If you have a long-term condition like COPD, you’ll feel better if you self-manage your condition and take some control of your life.
Knowing all you can about your COPD, your symptoms, your medications and how to cope with flare-ups will make your day-to-day life easier.
If you smoke, the most effective treatment for COPD is to stop. Your GP, COPD nurse, pharmacist or Quit4Life can help you find ways that make it easier for you. You’re four times as likely to quit with help from support services and medication.
Your GP can prescribe several types of medicine or combinations of medications to improve symptoms like breathlessness and to help prevent a flare-up.
Keeping active and doing exercise can make a big difference – many people find this helps them more than inhaled drugs.
Have a plan to help you manage your COPD that’s agreed with your doctor or nurse.
You should have an action plan that you’ve agreed with your GP or nurse so you know what to do if you have a flare-up. This will include a rescue pack of drugs (antibiotics and steroid tablets) that you keep at home.
Have regular check-ups with your COPD nurse – at least once a year.
Your COPD nurse or GP will refer you for pulmonary rehabilitation which combines physical exercise sessions with advice and discussions about your lung health.
Learn how to control your breathing : Relaxed slow deep breathing involves breathing in gently through your nose before you make the effort to do an activity. Then breathe out while making the effort. Try using pursed lips as you breathe out. When climbing stairs, pace your steps to your breathing.
If you’re overweight it will be harder for you to breathe and move around.
If you’re losing too much weight because eating makes you feel breathless, or find it difficult to shop and prepare meals, try to eat little and often.
Your GP or nurse can refer you to a dietician, Weight Watchers or Exercise on prescription to help you.
You will be given 2 vaccines: 1. Your flu jab every year. 2. A one-off vaccination against pneumococcal infection – a bacterial infection that can cause pneumonia and other illnesses.
Your emotions matter - Living with a long-term condition is not easy. Physical symptoms such as breathlessness and coughing, feeling more tired and being less active can mean you feel stressed, anxious or depressed.
The British Lung Foundation Breathe Easy groups support people living with a lung condition and their family. It’s a great way to get more information and make new friends.
How will you know you are having a flare-up?
A flare-up might be triggered by an infection or there may be no apparent reason.
Symptoms may include:
- Getting more out of breath
- More sputum, change in colour (is it green, brown, or yellow?)
- Increased chesty cough
What can I do?
- Continue or increase my inhaler or nebuliser treatment
- Start my rescue pack drugs using the instructions you have been given.
- Keep calm and do my breathing exercises
I must remember...
- Contact my nurse or doctor, or the community respiratory team within 2 days of starting the rescue pack drugs
- If symptoms are severe, call 999 and tell them that you have COPD so that you get the right oxygen treatment
You can find some helpful tips to help manage your condition here: