Your COPD Action Plan

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on April 18, 2023
2 min read

A COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) action plan is a written agreement between you and your doctor that spells out how to handle your symptoms as your condition changes. It is tailored for you.

Your action plan covers a full range of events, from when you feel good to if you need emergency medical care.

You’ll do this with your doctor’s help. You start by gathering a record of your past flare-ups, what triggered them, and how you managed the symptoms. Bring the information to your follow-up appointments and update it when your symptoms change or if you have new ones. 

Your doctor will help you organize your action plan and color code the sections in green, yellow, and red based how you feel with your current treatments.

Studies show that COPD action plans help you feel better and lower the chance that you’ll need to go to the hospital for breathing problems. The plan guides you on the best ways to manage and prevent your symptoms to slow down your disease. Your doctor can recommend new skills and responses for when you have a flare-up. The sooner you get the right treatment, the more likely you are to recover quickly.

An action plan also helps your family and caregivers recognize the signs of a medical emergency and what to do to help. The plan includes your doctor’s name, phone number, and the date that it was created and reviewed.

For an action plan to work, you need to be aware when your symptoms change or get worse. Review it for which medications to take or instructions to follow. Know how to tell which color zone you’re in:

  • Green. You feel well most of the time. You follow your regular treatment plan.
  • Yellow. Your symptoms are worsening or you have a flare. You might feel more breathless, cough more, or need your medications more often. Your plan lays out the steps to take, such as if you need to use an inhaler or oxygen, and when to call your doctor.
  • Red. This means you need medical care right away. You may be in the red zone if you have severe trouble breathing, cough up blood, or feel sleepy or confused. Your action plan will tell you what to do after you call 911 or before you head to the hospital.

Keep a copy of your action plan in your kitchen or anywhere that people who care for you can find it easily. Toss out outdated plans or put them away so you won’t confuse them with your current one.