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Discharge Instructions: COPD

You have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This is a name given to a group of diseases that limit the flow of air in and out of your lungs. This makes it harder to breathe. With COPD, you are also more likely to get lung infections. COPD includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is most often caused by heavy, long-term cigarette smoking.

Home care

Quit smoking

  • If you smoke, quit. It is the best thing you can do for your COPD and your overall health.

  • Join a stop-smoking program. There are even telephone, text message, and Internet programs to help you quit.

  • Ask your health care provider about medications or other methods to help you quit.

  • Ask family members to quit smoking as well.

  • Don't allow people to smoke in your home, in your car, or when they are around you.

Protect yourself from infection

  • Wash your hands often. Do your best to keep your hands away from your face. Most germs are spread from your hands to your mouth.

  • Get a flu shot every year. Also ask your provider about pneumonia vaccines.

  • Avoid crowds. It's especially important to do this in the winter when more people have colds and flu.

  • To stay healthy, get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and eat a balanced diet. You should:

    • Get about 8 hours of sleep every night.

    • Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days.

    • Have healthy foods including fruits and vegetables, 100% whole grains, lean meats and fish, and low-fat dairy products. Try to stay away from foods high in fats and sugar.

Take your medications

Take your medications exactly as directed. Don't skip doses.

Manage your stress

Stress can make COPD worse. Use this stress management technique:

  • Find a quiet place and sit or lie in a comfortable position.

  • Close your eyes and perform breathing exercises for several minutes. Ask your provider about the best way to breathe.

Pulmonary rehabilitation

  • Pulmonary rehab can help you feel better. These programs include exercise, breathing techniques, information about COPD, counseling, and help for smokers.

  • Ask your provider or your local hospital about programs in your area.

When to call your health care provider

Call your provider immediately if you have any of the following:

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing

  • Increased mucus

  • Yellow, green, bloody, or smelly mucus

  • Fever or chills

  • Tightness in your chest that does not go away with rest or medication

  • An irregular heartbeat or a feeling that your heart is beating very fast

  • Swollen ankles


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