COPD Living With

Managing COPD (4:16)
Learn healthy living tips to help manage COPD symptoms.

COPD has no cure yet. However, lifestyle changes and treatments can help you feel better, stay more active, and slow the progress of the disease.

Call your healthcare provider if you notice that your symptoms are worsening or if you have signs of an infection, such as a fever. Your provider may change or adjust your treatments to relieve and treat symptoms.

How to manage COPD at home

  • Join a COPD self-management program. Ask your healthcare provider for a program that will help you to educate yourself about COPD and interventions that can help you manage the disease and have a better quality of life. This might help you deal with fatigue, for example.
  • Talk to your provider about following an eating plan that will meet your nutritional needs. If you have trouble eating enough because of symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue, you may not get all the calories and nutrients you need. This can make your symptoms worse and raise your risk for infections. Your doctor may suggest eating smaller meals more often throughout the day, resting before eating, and taking vitamins or nutritional supplements.
  • Ask your provider what types of activities you can safely do. You may find it hard to remain active with your symptoms. However, physical activity can strengthen the muscles that help you breathe and improve your overall wellness.
  • Put items you use often in one easy-to-reach place. Find simple ways to cook, clean, and do other chores. For example, you might want to use a small table or cart with wheels to move things around and a pole or tongs with long handles to reach things.
  • Ask for help in making things more accessible in your house so that you will not need to climb stairs as often.
  • Keep your clothes loose-fitting, and wear clothes and shoes that are easy to put on and take off.
  • Use your medicines as recommended. Make sure you are using the inhaler correctly. It is normal for patients to have problems with the inhaler, so do not worry about asking your healthcare team multiple times how to use it.

Avoid triggers that can cause flare-ups

Over time, you may notice a sudden worsening of symptoms, called a flare-up, that may happen if you come in contact with certain scents or breathe in dust or fumes. Learning what these triggers are can help you avoid them and prevent flare-ups.

  • Stay away from lung irritants, including chemical fumes, dust, smoke from home cooking and heating fuels, and secondhand smoke (fumes in the air from other people smoking).
  • Check the air quality where you live, and keep your windows closed and stay at home when there is a lot of air pollution or dust outside.
  • Avoid being in places where there are cold temperatures.
  • Get regular flu and pneumonia shots, when available, to help prevent infections, which can trigger flare-ups.
  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine. This is especially important for people with lung disease.

Seek emergency care if you have a severe flare-up.

Keep phone numbers handy for your healthcare provider, your hospital, and someone who can take you for medical care. You also should have directions to the provider’s office and hospital and a list of all the medicines you are taking on hand.

Does COPD raise my risk for other conditions?

COPD may raise your risk for other health conditions that can happen because of COPD or as a result of the damage to the airways. These conditions include:

  • Frequent colds or other respiratory infections, such as the flu, or influenza, often happen if you have COPD.
  • Heart disease risks are higher for people who have COPD than for people who do not have COPD.
  • Other health problems, such as obesity or peripheral artery disease, that are caused by similar risk factors (smoking or not getting enough physical activity), may also be present. These other health problems may, in turn, make COPD worse.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your risk for other health problems and any healthy lifestyle changes you can make.

Breathing Better With a COPD Diagnosis booklet

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Learn about the steps you can take to breathe better and manage COPD.

Take care of your mental health

Living with COPD may cause fear, anxiety, depression, and stress. Talking to your healthcare provider or a professional counselor may help. If you are depressed, your provider may recommend medicines or other treatments that can improve your quality of life.

Joining a patient support group may help you adjust to living with COPD. You can see how other people with similar symptoms have coped. Talk with your provider about local support groups or check with an area medical center.

Support from family and friends can help relieve stress and anxiety. Let your loved ones know how you feel and what they can do to help you.

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