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Discharge Instructions: COPD

You have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This 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 program to stop smoking. 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 and vaping products because their long-term risks aren't known.

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 healthcare provider about pneumonia vaccines and the most recent COVID vaccine.

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

  • Get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a balanced diet to stay healthy. :

    • Get about 8 hours of sleep every night.

    • Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days. Ask your healthcare provider what type of exercise is safe for you.

    • 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.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important to staying as healthy as possible. So is trying to stay at your ideal weight. Being overweight or underweight can affect your health.

Take your medicines and use oxygen therapy

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

Talk with your healthcare provider during each appointment about how well you can:

  • Correctly use your inhaler. This is to make sure you are getting the correct medicine dose.

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

Use oxygen correctly if you use it. 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. Stay away from indoor and outdoor pollution. Indoor pollution includes burning wood, smoke from home cooking, and heating fuels. Outdoor pollution includes smoke, dusts, vapors, fumes, gases, and other chemicals. It also includes cold weather, high humidity, and allergens.

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

Ask your provider to show you how to breathe through pursed lips 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. Programs that are based in the community or at home work as well as those based in a hospital as long as they are held as often and are at the same intensity. Standard pulmonary rehab programs based at home help with breathing problems in people with COPD. Traditional supervised pulmonary rehab is still the best choice for people with COPD. 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 with 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:

  • More mucus

  • Yellow, green, bloody, or smelly mucus

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Chills

  • Swollen ankles

  • Increased cough

Call 911

Call 911 if you have:

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or trouble breathing that gets worse or doesn't get better with treatment

  • Tightness in your chest that does not go away with your normal medicines, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • A new irregular heartbeat or feeling that your heart is racing

  • Trouble talking

  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy

  • Feeling of doom

  • Skin turning blue, gray, or purple

Online Medical Reviewer: Andrew D Schriber MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.