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Exacerbations

What is an exacerbation?

Edna — What is a COPD Exacerbation?

How to Handle Exacerbations

COPD Exacerbations happen when your usual COPD respiratory symptoms flare up and become much worse than usual. Many exacerbations are caused by a viral or bacterial lung infection. Read More Air pollution can also be a trigger. However, in about one-third of severe exacerbations, the cause cannot be identified.

COPD Exacerbations may last for days or weeks and can require antibiotics, oral corticosteroids, and even hospitalization. They're different for everyone, but one thing that's similar in most exacerbations is they're sudden. When you experience an exacerbation, you may not even realize it's happening at first. The severity of symptoms you experience during an exacerbation goes beyond your day-to-day COPD symptoms. They typically consist of:

  • Cough
  • A change in the color or amount of phlegm
  • An increase in shortness of breath

In patients with more severe COPD, exacerbations generally happen more frequently, averaging about one to two episodes a year. Exacerbations may also increase with frequency of previous exacerbations, and decreased lung function. Regardless of how many exacerbations you've experienced, it's important that you talk to your healthcare team about managing them and do what you can to help prevent them in the future.

If you think you are experiencing an exacerbation, you should call your healthcare provider right away. If you think you have had an exacerbation in the past, you should discuss it with your healthcare provider. Close

Help decrease your chance of an exacerbation

Talk to your healthcare provider about things you can do to avoid triggers and help reduce your chance of exacerbations in the future.

Get a flu shot and ask if you need a pneumonia vaccine.

Keep your distance from anyone who has the flu, a cold, or a sore throat.

Keep taking your medications as prescribed.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water to help protect against infection.

Get a flu shot and ask if you need a pneumonia vaccine.

Keep taking your medications as prescribed.

Keep your distance from anyone who has the flu, a cold, or a sore throat.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water to help protect against infection.