Skip to content
Font Size

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

Metered Dose Inhalers (MDIs): How to Use One When You Have COPD

People who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other lung conditions often take their medications using devices called a metered dose inhaler (MDI) or a dry powder inhaler (DPI). 

Read the Metered Dose Inhalers (MDIs): How to Use One When You Have 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:

  • Help to stop smoking. To review tips on how to stop smoking, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • A yearly flu vaccine.
  • A pneumococcal vaccine. Usually, people need only one shot. But doctors recommend a second one for some people who got their first shot before they turned 65.
  • An exercise program or pulmonary rehabilitation.
  • Any updates of your medicines or treatment that you may need.
    1|2
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    man talking to his doctor
    Check your COPD risk.
    woman using inhaler
    What is the top cause of this condition?
     
    chest x-ray
    7 early warning signs.
    Senior couple stretching
    10 exercises for people With COPD.
     
    Bronchitis Overview
    Article
    Senior woman blowing dandelion
    ARTICLE
     
    Living With Copd
    VIDEO
    human lung graphic
    Article
     
    Energy Boosting Foods
    Slideshow
    red heart and ekg
    Article
     
    Living With Copd
    Article
    Senior couple stretching
    Slideshow