Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Self Management of COPD

Staying Healthy at Home with COPD

After you are discharged from the hospital, we want you to be as healthy and safe at home as possible. By carefully following all instructions given to you by your care team, you can help maintain and improve your own health and avoid another hospital stay.

Take Medications as Directed

You may be taking several medications to manage your COPD, which may include antibiotics, steroids, daily inhalers or rescue inhalers (fast acting). It is very important that you keep an up-to-date list of your medications along with the dosage and frequency and take them exactly as prescribed. If you are also prescribed home oxygen, your doctor will tell you how much oxygen you need (in liters) and when you need it. Follow your doctor’s instructions exactly.

attend your Scheduled Follow-Up Appointment(s)

After discharge from the hospital, your doctor will need to see you again within seven days to check on your progress and to ensure your prescribed medications are working. He or she may adjust the dosage and/or frequency of your medications based on the results of these follow-up visits, so it is very important that you keep all scheduled appointments. Be sure to follow up with your doctor at least once a month for three months. You can easily schedule your appointments by calling 216-844-2273.

Good to Go: Tips to Help You Stay Healthy Between Appointments

Follow these simple steps at home to monitor your health and manage your symptoms.

  1. Avoid triggers. Work with your doctor to identify the situations and environmental factors that may trigger a COPD flare-up. Once you know what they are, do your best to avoid them.
  2. Follow doctor's orders. Take all medications and use inhalers and home oxygen exactly as prescribed.
  3. Practice good hand hygiene. Frequent and thorough hand washing can help you stay healthy.
  4. Exercise. Exercise helps strengthen your heart and lungs and gives you more energy. However, only you can find the right balance between movement and rest. Do start slowly and build up to 30 minutes of activity, three to four times a week (or whatever your doctor suggests). If you cannot exercise for 30 minutes straight, try two 15-minute sessions to reach your goal. If you have heart palpitations, feel dizzy or lightheaded, or have a hard time breathing while you exercise, stop what you are doing and call your doctor or nurse. Heart palpitations may feel like your heart is racing, pounding or skipping a beat. If you have chest pain while you exercise, stop what you are doing and call 9-1-1 right away. 
  5. Follow the diet prescribed by your care team. If you have other health conditions, you may be prescribed a specific diet to help manage your overall health.
  6. Get an annual flu shot. 
  7. DON'T SMOKE and avoid being around others who smoke. If you are a current smoker, it is essential that you make every effort to stop. Resources to help you do this, include:
    • UH pamphlet, “Smoking Cessation: How to Be a Quitter.”
    • Tobacco Intervention & Psychosocial Support (TIPS) for patients with active cancer. Call 216-368-5643.
    • The Ohio Smoking Cessation Hotline. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

CAUTION: When to Call Your Doctor

If you experience any of the symptoms listed below, you should call your doctor’s office immediately, use your oxygen and rescue inhaler as ordered, and use "pursed-lip" breathing for breathlessness.

  • Sputum (phlegm) increases in amount, changes color or thickens
  • Cough increases or wheezing, even after taking your medications
  • More trouble breathing or more coughing with activity
  • Medications are no longer helping
  • Decreased appetite
  • Need extra pillows to sleep

STOP: CALL 9-1-1

If you experience chest pain or tightness that does not go away; lips or fingernails turn blue or gray; coughing up blood; trouble breathing or wheezing at rest or hard to walk or talk; you must sit up to breathe; your rescue medicine is not working; or you experience confusion, call 9-1-1 and use "pursed-lip" breathing for breathlessness.

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