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COPD Health Center

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COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) - When to Call a Doctor

Call 911 or other emergency services now if:

Call your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if you have been diagnosed with COPD and you:

Recommended Related to COPD

GOLD Criteria for COPD

The GOLD classifications are the main method doctors use to describe the severity of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). GOLD is short for the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, a collaboration between the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization.

Read the GOLD Criteria for COPD article > >

  • Cough up 0.5 cup (120 mL) or more of blood.
  • Have shortness of breath or wheezing that is quickly getting worse.
  • Start having new chest pain.
  • Are coughing more deeply or more often, especially if you notice an increase in mucus (sputum) or a change in the color of the mucus you cough up.
  • Have increased swelling in your legs or belly.
  • Have a high fever [over 101°F (38.3°C)].
  • Develop flu-like symptoms.

If your symptoms (cough, mucus, and/or shortness of breath) suddenly get worse and stay worse, you may be having a COPD flare-up, or exacerbation. Quick treatment for a flare-up may help keep you out of the hospital.

Call your doctor soon for an appointment if:

  • Your medicine is not working as well as it had been.
  • Your symptoms are slowly getting worse, and you have not seen a doctor recently.
  • You have a cold and:
    • Your fever lasts longer than 2 to 3 days.
    • Breathlessness occurs or becomes noticeably worse.
    • Your cough gets worse.
  • You have not been diagnosed with COPD but are having symptoms. A history of smoking (even in the past) greatly increases the likelihood that symptoms are from COPD.
  • You cough up any amount of blood.

Talk to your doctor

If you have been diagnosed with COPD, talk with your doctor at your next regular appointment about:

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