Be a Partner in Your COPD Care

You have a team working hard to keep you well but they can’t do it alone. You are an important member of the team. Be open and honest when you talk to doctors, nurses, or others. Let them know about problems you are having with the treatment plan or symptoms.

Understand your chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and what steps you need to manage it. Ask plenty of questions. This will help you make better decisions on a day to day basis. The more active you are in your care, the better the outcome will be.

Follow Your Care Plan

Daily habits can impact your COPD. Understand the steps listed in your care plan such as:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Stay away from smoke, dust, and smog.
  • Do not spend time in places that are very hot, cold, or high in altitude.
  • Reach and keep a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.

Ask for help if you are having trouble making these changes. Don’t feel embarrassed if you are having trouble making changes. Professionals may have tools to help you. A pulmonary rehabilitation program may also help. They not only teach you what habits are healthy but also show you how to start making these changes.

Medicine and treatments can have side effects. Let your care team know about any problems you are having. The team may be able to adjust your treatment or make changes to help you cope.

Identify Problems

No one knows your body like you do. You will be the first to know when something is wrong. Start treatment outlined in your care plan as soon as you feel symptoms worsen.

Let your care team know about symptoms that worsen or do not respond to treatment such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Problems doing day to day tasks
  • More or thicker mucus
  • An increase in coughing with or without blood
  • Ankle swelling
  • Problems sleeping
  • Lack of hunger
  • Your medicine is not helping you
  • Confusion or tiredness
  • Chest pain

Practice Self-care

A chronic disease can cause a lot of changes in your life. Change can be stressful. You may also withdraw from social events. Both impact your physical and mental health. Share your concerns with your care team. Let them know if anxiety or depression is making day to day tasks hard or you have problems with relationships. Be on the lookout for any of the following:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Hopelessness
  • Trouble sleeping, waking up too early, or oversleeping
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide with or without suicide attempts

Know that these aren’t normal. Treatment can help to ease these symptoms. There are also tools that may help you better cope.

Stay in Touch with Your Care Team

Open and honest talk with your care team can improve your overall wellness. The earlier you tell your care team about any problems you are having, the better it will be.


American Lung Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


College of Family Physicians of Canada


COPD. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated March 20, 2019. Accessed April 24, 2019.
How is COPD Treated. American Lung Association website. Available at: Updated March 13, 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: 11/8/2019

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