For individuals suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), managing the symptoms and avoiding exacerbations can be a full-time job. There are a number of different methods that can minimize ‘flare-ups’ and prevent you from succumbing to infections or other complications.
When a patient suffers from COPD, they may notice periods when their symptoms seem to get worse, or they notice new symptoms appearing; these periods are referred to as ‘exacerbations’ or ‘flare-ups’. Exacerbations can be caused by a number of different things, including changes in weather, exposure to irritants or allergens, or even another infection. While it is not always possible, it is important that people with COPD try to minimize the triggers of ‘flare-ups’ and seek immediate healthcare advice if they think a serious ‘flare-up’ is imminent.
Patients with COPD can reduce the intensity of ‘flare-ups’ by minimizing the risk of possible exacerbations and identifying the warning signs early.
Some simple tips that may help reduce the frequency of exacerbations include:
- Keeping up to date with flu shots and vaccinations.
- Washing your hands regularly, particularly after using the bathroom or after using public transport.
- Not smoking.
- Eating a well-balanced diet.
- Getting at least eight hours of sleep a day.
- Staying active.
- Avoiding large crowds during flu season.
Unfortunately, prevention may not always be possible. A particularly troubling exacerbation experienced by many COPD sufferers is pneumonia. Pneumonia is characterized by fever, nausea, diarrhea, shortness of breath, and excessive coughing. Supplementation of vitamin C and zinc will boost your immune system and help ward off pneumonia.
Exacerbations in COPD suffers can become life-threatening if they are not treated promptly. Severe exacerbations can decrease oxygen levels in the blood and inhibit the removal of carbon dioxide from the body, ultimately resulting in respiratory failure.
The most effective symptom management options for treating exacerbations include:
- Oxygen therapy
- Noninvasive ventilation
- Intubation and ventilation
If you begin to experience ‘flare-up’ symptoms or believe you may be suffering from severe exacerbations, it is vital that you seek medical attention immediately.