In general, the worse your underlying COPD, the more often you will have exacerbations. Acute exacerbations cannot be totally prevented. However, you can decrease how often you have them and how bad they are if you manage your care well.
General guidelines for reducing exacerbations include:
- Wash your hands often. It is an easy way to prevent infection. Also, avoid close contact with people who have colds or the flu.
- Keep your flu and pneumonia shots up to date.
- Keep your lungs working at peak levels by taking your medicines. (Inhaled beta-agonists, steroids and/or anticholinergics.)
- Use antibiotics and other medicines quickly when you need them for infections or sinus problems.
- Use hand-held spirometry. It is a quick and easy device to measure how well the lungs are working. It measures how much air you can blow out in one second (FEV1). These devices can be helpful at letting you know if your lung function is getting worse. Spirometry is good for those who have difficulty knowing the earliest signs of an exacerbation.
- The use of inhaled long-acting beta-agonists, inhaled corticosteroids and/or inhaled long-acting anticholinergics may reduce the risk of COPD exacerbations.