COPD Treatment Tips to Keep You on Track
You can live well with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) if you get the right COPD treatment plan and stick to it. The goals of a good COPD treatment plan are to manage and avoid COPD symptoms, slow the progression of the disease, manage COPD exacerbations and emergencies, and improve your general health and well-being.
It's important to learn as much as you can about your condition and work closely with your treatment team. That means taking all your medications on time and keeping all of your treatment appointments.
Medications that your doctors prescribe — bronchodilators, steroids, and antibiotics — help keep your COPD symptoms under control, but there is also a lot you can do on your own to stay on the right track.
COPD Treatment Action Plan
The American Lung Association recommends that people with COPD work with their doctor to develop an action plan based on their specific COPD symptoms. Every plan is different, and your plan may change over time. But an action plan should outline specific steps depending on your symptoms. Here is an example:
- Green zone.You are in this zone when your symptoms are under control. Take all your daily medications, keep all your scheduled doctor appointments, and follow your exercise and diet regimens.
- Yellow zone.COPD symptoms like feeling breathless, increased cough, increased phlegm, decreased appetite, and trouble sleeping could be symptoms of a COPD exacerbation. Your action plan should outline how to take your rescue medications, when to use oxygen, and how to use breathing exercises such as pursed-lip breathing. It should also discuss when to call your doctor.
- Red zone.If you have COPD symptoms like severe shortness of breath, chills and fever, confusion, chest pain, or coughing up blood, your action plan goes into emergency mode. Have your emergency contacts ready, call 911 if you need to, increase your oxygen, and get help right away.
COPD Tips to Stay on Track
In addition to following your treatment plan, you can help keep your COPD under control by avoiding potential complications, watching out for anxiety and depression, and making sure you have a good support system. Here’s how:
- Preventing COPD flares.Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke are two of the most important things you can do to help control COPD symptoms. Air pollutants, allergens like dust and mold, and chemical fumes can also cause a COPD exacerbation. Keep your windows closed and stay indoors as much as possible when pollen and pollution levels are high. Also, make sure to get flu and pneumonia vaccines to help avoid the complication of infection.
- Avoiding depression.Having COPD can make it hard to sleep, enjoy food, and do many of the activities you once enjoyed. Feeling down occasionally is normal, but clinical depression — when feelings of sadness and other symptoms last for more than two weeks — is dangerous. Depression may keep you from sticking to your treatment plan. Learn the symptoms of depression and ask for help if you need it. Treatment for depression may be an important part of managing your COPD.
- Understanding COPD anxiety.Your brain has a region that sets off an alarm signal when oxygen levels are low. For people with COPD, this region can become overly sensitive and send off alarm signals that feel like an anxiety attack. If you are worrying about your breathing all the time, especially if you are afraid to leave the house because of it, you may need help managing anxiety. Treatments such as breathing exercises, counseling, and medication can help keep anxiety under control.
- COPD support.Managing COPD can be tough, but you don't have to do it alone. Talk to your friends and family about your physical and emotional needs. Many find that joining a COPD support group offers an opportunity to share with others who understand. A support group can be a source of experience, strength, and hope, and can help you keep your COPD treatment on track.
Your COPD treatment plan is a lifelong process. Sticking with the plan is the best way to keep living well with COPD, and staying in close touch with your health care team will allow you to adjust your COPD treatment plan over time.
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