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Discharge Instructions: COPD

You have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is a name given to a group of diseases that limit the flow of air in and out of your lungs. This makes it harder to breathe. With COPD, you are also more likely to get lung infections. COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is most often caused by heavy, long-term cigarette smoking.

Home care

Quit smoking

  • If you smoke, get help to quit. It's the best thing you can do for your COPD and your overall health.

  • Join a stop-smoking program. There are even telephone, text message, and online programs to help you quit.

  • Ask your healthcare provider about medicines or other methods to help you quit.

  • Ask family members to quit smoking as well.

  • Don't allow people to smoke in your home, in your car, or when they are around you.

  • Don't use e-cigarettes because they have harmful side effects.

Protect yourself from infection

  • Wash your hands often. Do your best to keep your hands away from your face. Most germs are spread from your hands to your mouth.

  • Get a flu shot every year. Also ask your provider about pneumonia vaccines.

  • Stay away from crowds. It's especially important to do this in the winter when more people have colds and flu.

  • To stay healthy, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a balanced diet. You should:

    • Get about 8 hours of sleep every night.

    • Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days.

    • Have healthy foods including fruits and vegetables, 100% whole grains, lean meats and fish, and low-fat dairy products. Try to stay away from foods high in fats and sugar.

Take your medicines and oxygen therapy

Take your medicines exactly as directed. Don't skip doses.

During each appointment, talk with your healthcare provider about your ability to:

  • Correctly use inhaler techniques

  • Cope with other conditions you have and their treatments and if they affect your COPD

If you use oxygen, use it correctly. That means the amount you use and the length of time you use it.

  • Discuss long-term oxygen therapy with your provider.

  • Don’t allow smoking in your home, in your car, or around you. This is very important if you use oxygen.

  • Try to stay away from things that may affect your breathing. This includes cold weather, high humidity, smoke, air pollution, dust, and allergens

  • Unless your provider has told you otherwise, drink at least 8 glasses of fluid every day to keep mucus thin. Ask about other things that can help.

  • Ask your provider to show you pursed-lip breathing to help decrease shortness of breath.

Manage your stress

Stress can make COPD worse. Use this stress management method:

  • Find a quiet place and sit or lie in a comfortable position.

  • Close your eyes and do breathing exercises for several minutes. Ask your provider about the best way to breathe.

    Talk to your healthcare provider about your ability to cope in your normal environment.

Pulmonary rehabilitation

  • Pulmonary rehab can help you feel better. These programs include exercise, breathing methods, information about COPD, counseling, and help for smokers.

  • Ask your provider or your local hospital about programs in your area. Also talk to your healthcare provider about a self-management program to help control your symptoms.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • More mucus

  • Yellow, green, bloody, or smelly mucus

  • Fever or chills

  • Swollen ankles

Call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or trouble breathing that doesn't improve with treatment

  • Tightness in your chest that does not go away with your normal medicines

  • An irregular heartbeat or feeling that your heart is racing

  • Trouble talking

  • Feeling of lightheadedness or dizziness

  • Feeling of doom

  • Skin turning blue, gray, or purple in color

Online Medical Reviewer: Alan J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN CCRC
Online Medical Reviewer: Wanda Taylor RN PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2018
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