Lung infections are the most common cause of acute exacerbations. These infections can be viral or bacterial. Some specific viruses that cause COPD exacerbations are influenza, rhinovirus or adenovirus. Recent evidence suggests exacerbations of COPD are often caused by certain kinds of bacteria. These are known as mycoplasma and chlamydia.
Your health care provider may need to consider the risk of you getting an infection from one of these less common organisms. He/she will need to consider...
Have shortness of breath or wheezing that is quickly getting
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
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
You have a cold and:
Your fever lasts longer than 2 to 3 days.
Breathlessness occurs or becomes noticeably worse.
Your cough gets worse or lasts longer than 7 to 10 days.
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
you have been diagnosed with COPD, talk with your doctor at your next regular
Help to stop smoking. To review tips on how to stop smoking, see