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What Should I Do During a Flare-up?

Last updated: January 2023

Sometimes flare-ups seem to blindside the progress you have been making, and they come out of nowhere with a staggering punch.  There may be times that you can’t pinpoint the reason for a flare-up, making them difficult to prevent. Then there is the cold and flu season, affecting the healthy and the weak.  When a flare-up happens, what should you do?

Call your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms

I understand that placing a call to your pulmonologist and waiting for a response, only to find out that you need to go into the office, can be annoying.  However, allowing your doctor to evaluate your flare-up is essential to your recovery.

If you have family members begging you to call your doctor, this is not the time to show just how stubborn you can be. This is the time to listen to their concerns and make that phone call.  

Flare-ups can become much worse if they are not dealt with quickly. I have seen first-hand how a flare-up can begin small, but it leaves fewer options for your doctor when days pass, and the condition worsens.

Your doctor may ask you to take antibiotics, steroids, or other medications to stop the flare-up as quickly as possible.

Slow down and rest

Some people with COPD will try to continue doing all of the things that they have always done, even during an exacerbation. It is hard to slow down, especially when there are feelings that you may never be able to do as much again if you do slow down.  

There is some truth in that since physical activity may have a preventative effect on hospital readmissions.1  

However, like when you have the flu, you need to permit yourself to get better. There will be time to push through more respiratory therapy as you gain strength back.

Be willing to go to the hospital

Once a flare-up has gotten to the level your pulmonologist needs to place you in the hospital, you know that you have waited too long.

As COPD progresses, there may be times that you will call your doctor early in an exacerbation, and the only response will be to go directly to the hospital. This depends upon where you are in this journey and your doctor. This is a very important time. This is not the time to refuse to leave the house. This is the time to go and get the help that you need.

The one thing that I believe all COPD patients can agree on is that you do not want your condition to get worse, and this is why it is important to do what you can to stop flare-ups as quickly as possible, halting any further damage to your lungs.

Flare-ups can take you off guard, but if you commit to staying proactive with your care when they occur, you will increase your chances of recovering quickly.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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