COPD Management

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COPD can be a difficult disease to live with. However, there are many things you can do to facilitate the management of the condition.


Here are some things you can do in conjunction with taking your medication:

Quit smoking — The lungs are most affected in COPD. When you smoke it burdens the lungs even more. No matter how long you have been smoking, quitting (at any point) helps. If you are really struggling to quit, ask your doctor for help. Even just limiting the number of cigarettes a day, can be beneficial.

Learn the proper inhaler technique — Many of the medications used to treat COPD come in the form of an inhaler. There are different types of inhaler devices, and each requires a slightly different technique in order to use it effectively. Your doctor can teach you how to use your inhaler to make sure all the medication reaches your lungs. With enough practice, you will get more comfortable using your inhaler.

Prevent and treat infections — Having COPD puts you at risk for getting lung infections. Once you get an infection, the infection itself can make the COPD worse. Getting all your recommended vaccines is an important part of managing your COPD. This includes:

  • Pneumococcal vaccine – This vaccine helps prevent one of the most common causes of pneumonia.
  • Flu vaccine – You should get the flu vaccine every year before flu season.
  • Pertussis vaccine – This vaccine protects against whooping cough. You should get a dose if you have not had one at age 19 or older. 

If your symptoms are worse than usual, visit your doctor for a check-up. If you start having frequent infections (two or more times per year) despite treatment, your doctor might suggest preventive therapy which includes taking an antibiotic for a long period of time.


Nutrition — When COPD is in its advanced stages, it may be difficult to eat enough because of the symptoms. Unintended weight loss usually occurs in people with more advanced lung disease. Malnutrition can develop as a result of not eating enough. This can make symptoms worse and increase the likelihood of infection. If you are struggling to eat enough or experience rapid weight loss, please let your doctor know.


If you need to increase the total calories you consume, you can:

  • Eat small, frequent meals with nutrient-dense foods (such as eggs)
  • Eat meals that require little preparation (for example, microwaveable meals, instant porridges)
  • Rest before meals
  • Take a daily multivitamin
  • Add nutritional supplements (shakes or bars that contain a lot of calories and nutrients)

On the other hand, if you are overweight, this can also make COPD symptoms worse. In those circumstances, losing weight can certainly improve your quality of life. Controlling portion sizes or cutting down on refined sugar can lead to a better outcome. Taking short walks, if possible, can help improve your lung function as well as assist with shedding some kilograms. 

Regular monitoring — Seeing your doctor regularly is an important part of managing your COPD. Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms, how well your treatments are working, and whether you have other health problems that may be affecting your COPD. How often you should see your doctor will depend on your specific situation. Don’t miss any of your follow-up visits and if you are struggling to go, let your doctor know.

Managing COPD requires commitment. With enough dedication you can live a good-quality life, not restricted by your condition.


Written by Dr Ruusa Shivute | Health Window

Reference: Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management and Prevention of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: 2019 Report.

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