Preventing flare-ups of COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) thickens airways, making it harder to breathe in and get enough oxygen. Damage to the lungs also makes it harder to exhale and get rid of waste gas (carbon dioxide).

COPD is characterized by flare-ups that rather suddenly make breathing much more difficult. Often the patient needs to go to the emergency room. Every flare-up has the potential to make the disease get worse at a faster rate.

Here’s what you can do to prevent a flare:

Aim for quality air.

  • No smoking. If your loved one smokes, he or she has already been told to quit. Ask visitors and other family members not to smoke in the house.
  • Reduce exposure to common irritants. Keep the house well ventilated and free of dust, animal hair, and other allergens. Strong fumes, such as those in cleansers and paints, should also be avoided.
  • Limit exposure to outdoor pollution. Check for local air quality at gov/airnow. Stay indoors when the pollution level is high.

Beware of infections. Any cold or respiratory infection can cause a flare.

  • Stay current on vaccinations. Make sure your relative keeps up with flu and pneumonia vaccines.
  • Avoid crowds. During flu season, your loved one should avoid public places. Ask friends to be mindful of their own health before visiting.
  • Wash hands frequently. Fingers and hands collect bacteria from everything! Have your relative avoid touching his or her eyes, mouth, and nose. Bring a personal pen for use in stores, at the doctor’s, etc. Carry hand sanitizer or wipes.
  • See the dentist regularly. Good dental hygiene helps protect against infection.

Promote overall health. Getting adequate sleep is important for a person with COPD. So is getting enough exercise. Walking is recommended. But talk with the doctor first. There are special lung-friendly activities designed for persons with COPD.