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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 or vaping products 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.

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.

During each appointment, talk with your healthcare provider 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

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. Stay away from indoor and outdoor pollution. Indoor pollution includes things such as 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.

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. Community-based and home-based programs work as well as hospital-based programs as long as they are held as often and are at the same intensity. Standard home-based pulmonary rehab programs help with breathing problems in people with COPD. Traditional supervised pulmonary rehab is still the best option 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

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: Allen J Blaivas DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Daphne Pierce-Smith RN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Ronald Karlin MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2021
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