Managing COPD

Spring 2024 Newsletter – Online Edition

Dealing with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a lot. Even just saying its name can be intimidating. But in this newsletter, you’ll find up-to-date information on managing COPD, including strategies to prevent your disease from impacting your daily activities. These simple tips can help you live the healthiest life possible! 

Prevent Exacerbations or Flare-Ups
The first step to preventing a flare-up is understanding when one is actually happening. By recognizing the symptoms, you can manage a flare-up with medicine and rest—or medical attention as needed.

Common signs of a COPD flare-up or exacerbation:

  • Differences in mucus or phlegm
  • Shorter breath than normal
  • Wheezing or loud breathing
  • Excessive coughing
  • More fatigue or tiredness

While flare-ups can happen randomly, they’re usually triggered by a thing or condition. Understanding what triggers make your COPD worse can help you avoid flare-ups and better control your COPD. Some common COPD triggers include: 

  • Smoke
  • Strong odor, chemicals, and fumes
  • Weather, pollen, and air pollution
  • Respiratory and lung infections

As you begin to recognize your triggers, please share them with your doctor. They can help you develop a COPD Action and Management Plan, which includes what to do when your COPD symptoms worsen and when to seek medical attention.

Understanding Your COPD Medications 
Currently, there is no cure for COPD. The goal of treatment is to provide medicine when, where and how you need it to reduce the frequency and severity of your flare-ups. In other words, we want to help you feel as healthy as possible.

COPD medication can be split into two main categories: quick-relief medicine and long-term control medicine. Quick-relief medicine is more immediate and is usually taken in response to a flare-up or exacerbation. It works by relaxing your airways to help you breathe. 

Long-term control medicine reduces swelling and inflammation to prevent symptoms over time. Long-term control medicine should be taken daily, even when you feel fine.

This can be either a quick-relief or long-term control medicine. It lasts anywhere from 4 – 24 hours and works by relaxing the muscles around your airways, making it easier to breathe. 

Also known as Corticosteroids, these can be swallowed as a pill or inhaled to decrease inflammation, swelling, and mucus production inside the airways. 

Many doctors recommend a combination therapy, which includes two different medications in one inhaler or nebulizer treatment. 

Flare-ups or exacerbations are often caused by bacterial or viral infections. In these cases, an antibiotic may be required. Remember: even if you start to feel better, take all your antibiotics exactly as prescribed.

Those with COPD have a higher risk of complications from infectious respiratory diseases like the flu. Vaccines help protect you against these diseases before they become major problems. Talk to your healthcare provider to make sure you are up to date on your vaccinations.

Always use your medications as prescribed and instructed. Guidance from the National Quality Assurance Association (NCQA) says that if a COPD exacerbation lands you in the emergency department or hospital, make sure you are on the right treatment plan, including being prescribed a corticosteroid and a bronchodilator. Talk with your doctor if you have questions, and to ensure you are on the appropriate COPD plan.
How to use most common COPD devices: 
The most common device used to treat COPD is a metered dose inhaler, or MDI. These handheld devices release a specific amount of medicine that can be inhaled directly into the lungs. Please reference this guide on how to use and clean your MDI properly.

What about other COPD devices? Learn more here.  

If you’re looking to explore more COPD management resources, check out these articles from the American Lung Association.

Care Management 
Managing your health can feel overwhelming, but you are not alone. Select Health’s Care Managers—both nurses and social workers—are trained to help you reach your health goals. 

They’re here when you need help with: 

  • Getting screenings and immunizations 
  • Coordinating care for a chronic condition 
  • Understanding your insurance benefits 
  • Or even just getting a ride to a clinic

Learn more about Select Health Care Management.

The content included here is for your information and not a substitute for professional medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Additionally, the information in this newsletter does not guarantee benefits. To review your benefits, please reference your plan materials or call Member Services at 800-538-5038, weekdays, from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., closed Sunday. TTY users call 711.


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