How to Avoid COPD Exacerbations

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So a COPD exacerbation is a period where people with COPD will notice an acute deterioration in their symptoms. And these will probably last a few days, and they may experience shortness of breath, increased cough, they may be producing more phlegm than usual, and the phlegm may become discolored.

It's not a pleasant experience to go through. And it often means that you need to see your doctor to figure out what treatments you need.

COPD exacerbations apart from making you feel terrible for a few days, there is a risk that it could end up leading to a hospitalization. Which is obviously a concerning outcome where you may need more aggressive therapies.

But as pulmonologists, we worry about people who get many exacerbations. Because every time you get an exacerbation, it's just cutting a little bit more lung function off your lung. So it's really accelerating some sort of lung damage in your chest.

Avoiding exacerbations is kind of like, is the name of the game. And I think there's many ways you can do this. I think the first thing and the most important thing as pulmonologist we try and address is, avoid any irritants. Of which tobacco smoke, or vaping mist are two big ones.

And so if you are a COPD sufferer and you're still smoking and you have a severe nicotine addiction, there's lots of ways we can help you quit smoking.

I think another important thing is to just make sure you're getting regular exercise. When you exercise on a regular basis your lungs are really getting air in all the way to the bottom of your lungs. Your muscles around your chest are getting stronger, and has been shown to reduce exacerbation frequency.

I think more sort of sensible things like maybe a grandmother would tell you, just avoid people who are sick, try and don't visit the grandkids if they've got colds, or wear a mask if you're out in the crowds with large people especially now.

The last two things would be in relation to your doctor. Then get vaccinated. There's very good evidence now that getting your pneumonia, flu shots, and your COVID shots will literally prolong your life. And finally a lot of the inhalers and the medications that we use, a lot of them have been studied extensively and have been shown to reduce exacerbation frequency.

So if you are having a lot of exacerbations or episodes of bronchitis, really do speak to your pulmonologist because they will have solutions solutions and suggestions that you can do.