3 Expert Tips to Control COPD

Simple but effective ways to live with fewer symptoms

When you are managing COPD, it can feel like there’s a lot to remember. Focusing on some key things can make it easier, though. Exercising regularly, eating well, and taking your medicine will help you feel your best. Michael Sims, MD, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, recommends three other ways to take control of your COPD and keep it from becoming worse.

Quit smoking
It’s not too late to quit smoking, even if you have COPD. You can’t reverse damage already done to your lungs, but you will still see big benefits. “You’ll see a decrease in cough and mucus production within a month,” Dr. Sims says. “Most important, you will be slowing down your decline in lung function. It’s an investment in the future.” You don’t have to quit cold turkey. Your doctor can recommend treatments that reduce your desire to smoke.

Call your doctor
When you feel COPD symptoms coming on that are more than you usually experience, don’t try to get through them on your own. “Sometimes people try to self-medicate at home, and they wait too long to ask for help. Then they realize they have to call 911,” says Dr. Sims. “If you’re having a sudden increase in symptoms, call your doctor right away to see what you should do.” If you are having significant difficulty breathing and medication doesn’t help, contact 911 immediately.

Fight the flu
People with COPD are at a greater risk of serious complications from the flu and pneumonia. To protect yourself, be sure to get a flu shot every year. The seasonal flu virus changes slightly every year, so don’t rely on last year’s shot to protect you. Ask your doctor if you should get the pneumonia vaccine. If you have already had one, find out when you will be due to get another one. To prevent colds and flu, wash your hands often with soap and water. Avoid crowds during flu season if you can.

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