The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Are you finding it hard to breathe? Your normal coughing has escalated quicker than normal? Feeling anxious and having trouble sleeping? If you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), than chances are that a COPD flare-up is right around the corner. Flare-ups can come on suddenly and seemingly from out of nowhere, causing all sorts of strife for the sufferer. So just how exactly do you avoid COPD flare-ups?
Causes of COPD Flare-Ups
COPD can be effectively managed with medications and lifestyle adjustments, but sometimes symptoms worsen. This increase in symptoms is called an exacerbation or flare-up. If your COPD symptoms start to get worse, then seek or administer treatment for the flare-up as soon as you can to restore normal breathing.
COPD flare-ups are often caused by a specific trigger that greatly affects your condition. A trigger is usually an outside event or circumstance that intensifies symptoms. Some of the most common causes of a COPD flare-up include: being around smoke or other air pollutants, weather changes, doing too much activity or feeling stressed out. COPD can act differently in everyone, even though most people experience similar symptoms. It’s important to remember, the events that trigger a flare-up for you may not be the same as for another person with COPD.
In a recent study, it was found that ongoing COPD flare-ups lead to more acute inflammation within patients. The study, taking place over 6 months, measured the blood of 21 patients to determine the effects of acute exacerbations and the triggers that caused each flare-up. It was determined that over a period of time that flare-ups caused more inflammation for each patient, but the triggers were different among some of the COPD sufferers.
Preventing COPD Flare-Ups
COPD exacerbations can be prevented in many cases. You can often manage a flare-up right away with medicines and self-care. Work with your doctor on an action plan for COPD exacerbations so that you know what to do. Also, get to know your usual symptoms, sleep patterns and when you have good or bad days. This can help you learn the difference between your normal symptoms and signs of a COPD flare-up.
Staying away from situations that trigger symptoms is the short answer to the question of prevention. Here are a few tips to avoiding COPD flare-ups:
- Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
- Take your medicines as directed by your doctor.
- Avoid colds and the flu.
- Keep air pollutants, such as fireplace smoke and dust, out of your home.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in lean proteins, fish, fruits and vegetables.
- Stay active. Take a walk or try sticking to a normal routine.