Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition in which airflow from the lungs is restricted. The lungs can never return to normal, but there are measures you can take which will improve them and make you feel better.

CAUSES

  • Smoking.

  • Exposure to secondhand smoke.

  • Breathing in irritants (pollution, cigarette smoke, strong smells, aerosol sprays, paint fumes).

  • History of lung infections.

TREATMENT

Treatment focuses on making you comfortable (supportive care). Your caregiver may prescribe medications (inhaled or pills) to help improve your breathing.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • If you smoke, stop smoking.

  • Avoid exposure to smoke, chemicals, and fumes that aggravate your breathing.

  • Take antibiotic medicines as directed by your caregiver.

  • Avoid medicines that dry up your system and slow down the elimination of secretions (antihistamines and cough syrups). This decreases respiratory capacity and may lead to infections.

  • Drink enough water and fluids to keep your urine clear or pale yellow. This loosens secretions.

  • Use humidifiers at home and at your bedside if they do not make breathing difficult.

  • Receive all protective vaccines your caregiver suggests, especially pneumococcal and influenza.

  • Use home oxygen as suggested.

  • Stay active. Exercise and physical activity will help maintain your ability to do things you want to do.

  • Eat a healthy diet.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You develop pus-like mucus (sputum).

  • Breathing is more labored or exercise becomes difficult to do.

  • You are running out of the medicine you take for your breathing.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have a rapid heart rate.

  • You have agitation, confusion, tremors, or are in a stupor (family members may need to observe this).

  • It becomes difficult to breathe.

  • You develop chest pain.

  • You have a fever.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.