COPD: When to Call for Help

When you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it is important to know when to call for help. Treatment will be needed to stop symptoms from getting worse. Early care can help stop major problems and decrease recovery time.

Read on to learn when to call your care team and when to call for emergency help. The earlier you call, the more likely that the help you get can result in better outcomes.

Signs That You Need to Call Your Care Team

Call your care team right away if you have:

  • Problems breathing
  • Problems doing day to day tasks because you are too tired
  • More or thicker phlegm
  • Been using your rescue medicine more often or it is not helping you
  • More coughing
  • Problems sleeping
  • Lack of hunger

These signs may mean that your medicines need to be changed to ones that are more helpful for you. The only way this can happen is if you call your care team.

Signs That You Need to Call for Emergency Help

Call for emergency care right away if you have:

  • Problems breathing even when you are at rest
  • Not been able to do tasks because you are out of breath
  • Not been able to sleep because it is hard to breathe
  • Fever or chills
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness
  • Chest pain
  • Been coughing up blood

You need medical care right way if you have these signs.

Stay in Touch with Your Care Team

Your goal should be to lower the risk of more damage. The earlier you tell your care team about any problems you are having, the more they can work with you to prevent future damage.


American Lung Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


College of Family Physicians of Canada


COPD. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dyname.... Updated March 20, 2019. Accessed April 24, 2019.
My COPD action plan. American Lung Association website. Available at: Accessed April 24, 2019.
Last reviewed May 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 11/5/2019

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