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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) - Treatment Overview

Dealing with flare-ups

COPD flare-ups, or exacerbations, are when your symptoms—shortness of breath, cough, and mucus production—quickly get worse and stay worse.

Work with your doctor to make a plan for dealing with a COPD flare-up. If you are prepared, you may be able to get it under control. Don't panic if you start to have one. Quick treatment at home may help you prevent serious breathing problems.

A flare-up can be life-threatening, and you may need to go to your doctor's office or to a hospital. Treatment for flare-ups includes:

  • Quick-relief medicines to help you breathe.
  • Machines to help you breathe. The use of a machine to help with breathing is called mechanical ventilation. Ventilation is used only if medicine isn't helping you and your breathing is getting very difficult.
    • Noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NPPV) forces air into your lungs through a face mask.
    • With invasive ventilation, a breathing tube is inserted into your windpipe, and a machine forces air into your lungs.
    • Oxygen to help you breathe. Oxygen treatment can be done in the hospital or at home.
  • Antibiotics. These medicines are used when a bacterial lung infection is considered likely. People with COPD have a higher risk of pneumonia and frequent lung infections. These infections often lead to COPD exacerbations, or flare-ups, so it's important to try to avoid them.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 24, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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