COPD: Handling a Flare-Up

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In a COPD flare-up, your symptoms get worse over a short time and stay bad. You may have more shortness of breath and wheezing. You may have more coughing, with or without mucus. You may cough up more mucus than usual, and it may be a different color.

Don't panic

Do not panic if you start to have a COPD flare-up.

If you have a COPD action plan, follow the plan. In general:

  • Use your quick-relief inhaler as directed by your doctor. If your symptoms do not get better after you use your medicine, call your doctor or seek immediate medical care. Call an ambulance if needed.
  • Use your inhaler or nebulizer correctly. Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or respiratory therapist how to use each of your inhalers or nebulizers.
  • If your doctor has given you other inhaled medicines or steroid pills, take them as directed.
  • Use a breathing technique, such as pursed-lip breathing. This may help you breathe easier during a flare-up.
  • If your doctor has given you a prescription for an antibiotic, fill it if you need to.
  • Call your doctor if you have to use your antibiotic or steroid pills.


Current as of: August 6, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.