Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition that causes decreased amount of air flow out of your lungs. This makes it harder to breathe. COPD only gets worse with time, but there are many treatments to help you breathe easier.

How do I know if I have COPD?

Do you get winded when walking upstairs? Some people might write this off as a sign of "growing older," but it could be the symptom of something more serious. If you have a chronic cough and shortness of breath, you should discuss this with your doctor. Depending on several factors, your doctor may have you take a spirometry test.

What is a Spirometry Test?

A spirometry breathing test will show how much air you can breathe into your lungs and how fast you can blow it out. This will tell your doctor if you have any blockage of air flow. This test will be recorded and put on a graph for your doctor to read.

Tips to avoid flare-ups:

  • Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.
    • Do not smoke. If you need help to quit smoking or using tobacco, call the toll-free Quitline at 1-800-784-8669 or 1-800-QUIT-NOW. If someone in your family smokes, ask them to smoke outside.
  • Try to stay indoors when the pollution levels are high.
    • Look up air quality on your weather application or phone for warnings about poor air quality or ozone alerts. Getting flu or pneumonia shot can reduce the chance of getting an infection.
  • Wash your hands often and do not touch your face, especially your eyes.
  • Cold air can dry your airways and irritate your lungs.
    • You should cover your mouth with a scarf to help warm the air so that you can breathe easier.
  • In the summer, heat and humidity can also make it hard to breathe so use an air conditioner if possible.
  • Stress and anxiety may make breathing problem worse.

Here are some tips to manage COPD:

Use your inhaler properly

Talk to your doctor about how you should use your inhaler properly. If you use your inhaler incorrectly, the medicine may not make it all the way to your lungs. Some children and adults may need to use a spacer or a mask to get medicine to the lungs.


Daily exercise is recommended for everyone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Oxygen Therapy

If your doctor ordered oxygen for you, it is important to use it exactly as prescribed. Do not turn the flow rate up higher when you have trouble breathing as it may be harmful. If you are using your oxygen as your doctor ordered and you are still having trouble breathing, you should call your doctor right away.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises can help you breathe easier when you feel short of breath. Your doctor can show you how to do pursed lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing techniques. You will need to practice these techniques so that you are ready to use them when you need them.


Eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, dried beans, whole grains and foods low in salt.  Drink water. Drink a lot of fluids to keep your mucus thin so that it is easier to cough up.

Sleep and Rest

Make sure you get enough sleep. Space out your activities throughout the day to help you to save energy. Rest for about 20 or 30 minutes after eating a meal.