Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

What should you know about COPD?

Over 35? Ever smoked? Ever been a passive smoker? Breathless when active? Wheezy when active? Chronic chesty cough with phlegm/sputum? Recurrent chest infections? You may have COPD!

Chronic = it’s a long-term condition and does not go away

Obstructive = your airways are narrowed, so it’s harder to breathe out quickly

Pulmonary = it affects your lungs

Disease = it’s a medical condition

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is not a single condition but a collective term for a range of lung diseases and conditions, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease.

The main cause of COPD is smoking and the risk of developing COPD grows in line with how much someone smokes or how long they have been a smoker or exposure to  smoke from other sources and air pollution. A rare genetic condition called alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency makes people very susceptible to develop COPD at a young age.

The difficulty breathing is mainly as a result of a narrowing of their airways.

See your GP if you have some or all of the symptoms listed above. They might appear or get worse when you have an infection or breathe in smoke or fumes. 

If your GP thinks you may have COPD, they will ask your practice nurse to check how well your lungs work with a simple test called spirometry, do a blood test and a chest X-ray to rule out other causes of your symptom and calculate your body mass index (BMI) to find out if you’re a healthy weight for your height. This is important because you can deal with your COPD better if you’re not underweight or overweight.

Spirometry involves blowing hard into a machine which measures your lung capacity and how quickly you can empty your lungs. This is called the forced expiratory volume in one second, often shortened to FEV1.

There are treatments to help you breathe more easily, but they can’t reverse the damage to your lungs – so it’s important to get an early diagnosis

COPD is one of the top five killers of people under the age of 75 in England.

What’s the difference between COPD and asthma?

With COPD, your airways have become narrowed permanently – inhaled medication can help to open them up to some extent.

With asthma, the narrowing of your airways comes and goes, often when you’re exposed to a trigger – something that irritates your airways – such as tobacco smoke, dust or pollen. Inhaled medication can open your airways fully, prevent symptoms and relieve symptoms by relaxing your airways.

So, if your breathlessness and other symptoms are much better on some days than others, or if you often wake up in the night feeling wheezy, it’s more likely you have asthma.

What can you do to prevent it and improve your self-care?

If you're a smoker, then the single greatest thing you can do to prevent COPD, to improve your self-care and your health in general, is to quit. Straight away. Your health begins to improve from the moment you stop smoking.

Beyond that the general rules of a healthy lifestyle apply: 

You can find some helpful tips to help manage your condition here:

See the Lifestyle matters pages of our website for more information.

What if you already have COPD?

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.

Eat a healthy diet and keep a healthy weight.

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:

Contact details for local sources of help.

See the contact details in the Lifestyle matters pages of our website.

British Lung Foundation

The only UK charity looking after the nation’s lungs, working towards a day when everyone breathes clean air with healthy lungs.

Find local COPD support here.

You can contact the British Lung Foundation via its helpline: 03000 030 555

Breathe Easy

Farnborough and District support group.

When: Last Wednesday of every month

Time: 2pm - 4pm

Call: 03000 030 555

Where: Mayfield Medical Centre, Croyde Close, Farnborough, GU14 8UE

Lungs Aloud/Breathe Easy singing group

Lungs Aloud is a singing group for people with COPD, helping to combine a love of singing with therapy.

When: 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month

Time: 2pm - 4pm

Where: Mayfield Community Centre, Farnborough, GU14 8TX

Contact: Maureen Smith email:  Tel: 01252 409360

Rushmoor Healthy Living

Delivering a variety of projects across the local community, working together with individuals, groups and companies with the aim of improving people’s health and wellbeing, whether through exercise and rehabilitation classes or through health education.



Tel: 01252 362 660

North East Hampshire & Farnham Recovery College

The Recovery College can support you to improve your health and wellbeing and pursue your own unique life goals, with or without the ongoing symptoms of an illness or condition.

Courses are aimed at everyone aged 18 and over in the North East Hampshire and Farnham area and delivered in a variety of locations. Whether you want to improve your health and wellbeing, have a physical or mental health condition that you want to learn how to manage, or care for someone who has a physical or mental health condition, there are courses for you.

  • Develop skills such as learning to sleep well or getting into work
  • Build your confidence and learn how to manage low self-esteem
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle with Pilates, seated exercise or healthy eating courses
  • Explore your creative side with art, music or creative writing
  • Learn more about physical and mental health conditions

For information about all courses visit, phone 07920 207046 and ask for the Recovery College or email


TalkPlus is a team of therapists, counsellors and psychologists. They offer a range of treatments to people who are experiencing symptoms of low mood and depression, anxiety, worry, stress, social anxiety, OCD, PTSD, phobias, insomnia, relationship issues and low self-esteem.

You can download guided self help leaflets and access a range of courses, including:

There are also MP3 downloads which you can download to listen to.

TalkPlus services can be provided face-to-face or over the telephone.

If you are a patient of a GP in Rushmoor, Hart of Farnham then you can either self-refer or be referred through your GP.

Nearly all TalkPLUS courses are held at the main location in The Meads Business Centre, Farnborough.

TalkPlus has three locations where clinics are held in addition to GP practices across the area.



Tel: 01252 533355

Free referral to Weight Watchers from your GP or another healthcare professional if you are resident in Hampshire or registered with a GP practice in Hampshire, are identified as obese (with a BMI of 30 or over) OR are overweight (with a BMI of 28 or over) AND with a medical condition that is adversely affected by your weight  e.g. high blood pressure, musculoskeletal issues, cardiovascular disease risk, asthma, high blood glucose, or are pregnant.

You have to be 18 or over, not have an eating disorder and have not previously attended self-funded sessions (with Weight watchers or a similar weight management provider) in the 3 months prior to referral.

We encourage men as well as women to take advantage of this excellent opportunity for free help.

The course is free-you can choose between either 12 sessions of weekly Weight Watchers meetings with full access to all the online tools (desktop and App tools)  OR you can choose to access Weight Watchers online only. You will need referral form from your GP, then you ring the number on the form  and quote a reference number to access the service for free.

Quit4Life, Hampshire's free NHS stop smoking service, offers friendly support, including advice on e-cigarettes and stopping smoking without putting on weight. They can also supply safe and effective stop smoking products for up to 12 weeks. Go to or call 0845 602 4663 for more information.

If you live or work in Farnham, visit, to find the courses closest to you, as well as course times and contact details for the organisers.

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