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Recognising the signs of a COPD flare-up and starting early, pro-active treatment is crucial to prevent your flare-up from worsening.

Different people may need different treatments – knowing what’s the right course of action for you is essential. This is typically set out in a COPD action plan.

Flare-up action plan

  • Follow your COPD action plan that was previously discussed with your GP / lung specialist. 
    • Download a COPD action plan form
    • The action plan should be reviewed every six months, or after every flare-up.
  • Contact your GP or lung specialist early. Do not ‘wait and see’.
  • Initiate additional medications as planned. 
  • Pace your activity by breaking up tasks and allowing more time to complete them. Plan to be restful after a task requiring exertion. 
  • Use breathing techniques and comfortable resting positions to manage breathlessness. Use airway clearance techniques to clear mucus from your airways if previously taught by a physiotherapist.
  • Drink and eat small amounts of nourishing foods but more frequently. 
  • Contact your doctor again if your flare up feels severe, or if you need to take your fast-acting relievers more often than once every 3 hours.

“I use my action plan religiously. It’s reassuring to have in writing exactly what I need to do if I have a flare-up. Listen to your lungs and know when to refer to your action plan.”

– Jan, who has COPD

When to go to hospital

The following signs may indicate a need to present to hospital for rapid treatment: 

  1. Significant increase in the intensity of symptoms; 
  2. Severe COPD; or
  3. Increased symptoms alongside: Inadequate response to medical treatment in the community.
  4. Co-existing serious chronic health conditions.
  5. Inability to eat or sleep.
  6. Altered mental status.
  7. New physical signs such as bluish discolouration, swelling in limbs or a change in heart rate or rhythm of concern.
  8. Inability to walk between rooms when able to do so usually, or difficulty managing at home even with supports in place.
  9. Insufficient medical support where you are.