COPD Emergencies

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) includes lung diseases such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. An estimated 24 million Americans are affected by COPD, but half of those people are not aware they have it. If you experience increased breathlessness, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness, visit your doctor to get screened for COPD. Smoking, pollution, and genetics are the most common risk factors for COPD. If you have COPD, learn how you can avoid exacerbations and when you need to visit the emergency room.

How You Can Avoid Exacerbations

  • Thoroughly wash your hands often with warm water and soap.
  • Use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your face to prevent illness.
  • Drink plenty of water and get plenty of sleep.
  • Stay away from crowds, especially during flu season.
  • Get your annual flu shot.
  • Get a pneumonia and pertussis vaccine if needed.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke and pollutants.
  • Install an air filter in your home.
  • Keep floors, carpets, and bedding clean.
  • Reduce your exposure of household chemicals.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice, exercise plan, and treatment plan.

When It’s an Emergency

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you have COPD and any of the following symptoms.

  • Breathing stops
  • Moderate to severe difficulty breathing
  • Severe chest pain
  • Increasing shortness of breath
  • Coughing up half a cup of blood or more
  • Swelling in legs or abdomen
  • Fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Worsening cough
  • Increased mucus with cough
  • Color change in mucus
  • Flu-like symptoms

These are signs of an exacerbation, and the quicker you receive treatment, the better. Locate your nearest St. Luke's Health emergency room today.


WebMD | COPD Symptoms
COPD Foundation

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