How to Prevent COPD Exacerbations Without Medication

October 3, 2013
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COPD treatmentCOPD exacerbations, or a sudden worsening of symptoms, can pose serious health risks for those suffering with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

COPD treatmentCOPD exacerbations, or a sudden worsening of symptoms, can pose serious health risks for those suffering with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Triggers such as lung infections or exposure of pollutants can result in COPD flare-ups, accelerating symptoms like coughing up mucus and chronic fatigue.  More common in persons with Severe COPD or Stage III COPD, flares can speed up the progression of the disease and lead to a drastic loss in quality of life.

COPD exacerbations are serious clinical events and do require medical intervention such as inhaled bronchodilator and noninvasive positive pressure ventilation (NIPPV) to ensure proper treatment. However, effective COPD management also includes identifying triggers that exacerbate the condition and result in COPD flare-ups. 

Self-care is important to improve the course of any chronic condition and can have a huge impact for those with COPD. Lifestyle changes that control and reduce exposure to environmental and behavioral triggers helps patient live with a better quality of life.

Here a few of the most effective ways to reduce exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) beyond medications:

  1. Stop smoking and avoid tobacco smoke – 80%-90% of deaths from CPOD are a result of smoking. Smokers are over 12 times more likely to die of COPD versus non-smokers. Kicking the habit is the best way to treat and prevent COPD exacerbation. You healthcare provider can help you devise a smoking cessation plan that works best for you, which may include a combination of nicotine replacement therapy and psychological techniques. Learn to reduce and manage triggers that cause you to smoke: stress, conflict, drinking. Second hand smoke can also intensify COPD flare-ups. If there are other smokers in the home, encourage them to quit or at the very least request they do not smoke in enclosed areas or rooms with poor ventilation , but rather they go outdoors.
  2. Practice good hand hygiene – Persons with COPD need to protect themselves against cold and flu. The most effective way to prevent infection is frequent hand washing. Persons with COPD should avoid contact with people who are sick and should not share drinks or utensils with others.
  3. Keep vaccinations up to dateAnnual flu shots are important for people with COPD to prevent illness and can reduce the incidence of hospitalization upon a flare-up. The pneumonia vaccine is recommended for severe COPD patients and those over age 65.
  4. Reduce exposure to dust and air pollution – Direct and indirect exposure to irritants such as smoke, dust, and harsh chemicals can trigger a COPD flare up. Make sure carpets are clean to control dust and wear a mask  if its necessary to reduce exposure.
  5. Drink Water – Water helps reduce chest congestion, so COPD patients should consume 6-8 glasses of water per day unless a physician has limited fluid intake.

Physicians and medical professionals also strongly recommend adhering to healthy diet. Patients with COPD require as much as 10 times the energy to breath as other people and require adequate nutrition. Staying active through exercise can help control weight and maintain muscle strength, which helps fight off exacerbations. 

What do you recommend for helping prevent the flaring up of COPD symptoms?