What is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disease of the lungs. It may be caused by genetic factors, allergies, infections or smoking. Because of COPD, the air empties from your lungs more slowly than normal and makes you work harder to breathe. This may make you feel short of breath at times. You also may have more respiratory tract infections that last longer. You may experience episodes of trouble breathing, coughing-up thick mucus, wheezing or chest tightness. During these attacks, you may notice your lips and fingernails turn blue.

Your symptoms may worsen with exposure to cigarettes, air pollution, irritants, temperature changes or infections. Over-exercising or not taking medicine as instructed also may make your symptoms worse. Because you have COPD, you will have to change the way you live.

What should I do?

  1. Take any prescribed medications as instructed by your doctor. If you have any questions about these medications, call your doctor’s office immediately.
  2. Exercise is important. Your doctor should help you design a program especially for you.
  3. Do not smoke. Stay indoors on high pollution days.
  4. Avoid people who have a cold or the flu.
  5. If you have a history of allergies, discuss possible treatment with your doctor.
  6. Eating a diet with plenty of protein, vitamins and minerals is important. You also may need to decrease your daily intake of liquids or certain foods (especially those containing salt). Discuss your diet with your doctor or dietician.
  7. To help keep your lungs free of infection, take several deep breaths and then cough. Do this often during the day.
  8. During periods of activity, you may feel short of breath. Here are some breathing techniques that may help:
    a. Breathe with pursed or puckered lips (as if you are playing the trumpet).
    b. Breathe using your diaphragm. Put one hand on your abdomen, breathe in so that this hand moves outward. This allows your lungs to expand more, taking in more air.

Call the doctor if:

  1. You have thickening of mucus despite attempts to thin it.
  2. You are more tired than usual.
  3. Your lips or nail beds stay a gray or blue color even after your attack has passed.
  4. You have any problems that may be related to the medicine you are taking.

Is it an emergency?

  1. If you have any of the problems below call 911 for help. DO NOT drive yourself.
  2. You have a temperature over ____°F (____°C).
  3. You have blood in your sputum, increasing chest pain, trouble breathing even when resting, nausea and vomiting, sweating or headache.
  4. You feel confused.
Mission Health Care Network | 2525 de Sales Avenue | Chattanooga, TN 37404 | MissionHealth@memorial.org
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