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  • Ann Hollander

Red flags for COPD

November is COPD Awareness month. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a lung condition that gets steadily worse over time. It is often characterized by "flares," or "exacerbations," periods when breathing suddenly becomes more difficult. It can be very frightening and often results in a dash to the emergency room.

It's important to know the early signs of a flare and to have an action plan. If you know the signs and what to do, chances are good for managing the condition at home. Skip the stress and cost of trips to the emergency room!

Develop a personalized action plan with your relative's health care provider. They may even have classes or nurse educators to help. Ask what you should do if your family member suddenly shows symptoms such as these:

  • Feeling more breathless than usual

  • Extreme fatigue

  • More coughing, with thicker phlegm or mucus

  • Needing to use a quick-relief "rescue" inhaler or nebulizer more often

  • Weight gain of three pounds or more in a day's time. This may be due to fluid build-up. Check for increased swelling around the ankles.

  • Inability to sleep well because of breathing or coughing difficulties

  • Lack of appetite

Plan with the doctor what steps to take to address these symptoms. Among other things, the doctor may suggest

  • special medications

  • special breathing exercises

  • increased oxygen

Have these on hand and ready for use at the first sign of a flare. Call the doctor immediately if these treatments don't help and the condition seems to be getting worse.

Does the person you care for have COPD?

We at Options for Aging understand how frightening it can be to see a loved one struggling so hard to breathe. As the North Shore and Chicago experts in family caregiving, we can help you do what you can do at home to keep things stable. Give us a call at 847-868-1445.

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