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Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, COPD
Student Health Information Page compiled by: Tisha Callo

What is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder?

Collection of diseases in which air flow to the lungs is blocked making it hard to breath. This can damage the lungs and strain the heart.

How do I know I have it?
Spirometry is the current standard of COPD diagnosis. It’s a breathing test administered by a health care professional that measures how much air you breathe out and how fast you can blow air out.

Blood tests and diagnostic imaging services may be used to check for other lung problems.

What are the Symptoms?

  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough
  • Gasping for air
  • Mucus buildup
    You may be at risk if you are older than 40 years and
  • Have symptoms of COPD
  • Have a history of smoking
  • Have been exposed to environmental or job related pollutants.
Please talk with your health care provider about being tested for COPD using spirometry (a breathing test).
    When should I contact my caregiver?
  • You have shortness of breath more than usual
  • You are coughing and wheezing more than usual
  • You are coughing more mucus than usual, or the color has changed
  • You have cold-like symptoms
  • Your lips, skin, or nails start to turn blue
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care
    When should I seek immediate care?
  • You are dizzy or feel faint
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It feels swollen
  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain
  • You cough up blood

How is it treated?

  • Medications such as inhaled steroids or bronchodilators
  • Flu and pneumonia vaccines
  • Medications for chest infections
  • Oxygen Therapy
    First Aid Steps
  1. Sit the person upright.
  2. Give 4 puffs of the person’s inhaler (if not, use first aid kid inhaler)
  3. Wait 4 minutes. If the person still cannot breathe normally, give 4 more puffs.
  4. If the person still cannot breathe normally, call 9-1-1 and say that someone is having an asthma attack. Continue to give 4 puffs every 4 minutes until the ambulance arrives.

Preventive Steps

COPD is not curable, however you can reduce the severity of the condition:

  • Quit Smoking: 7 attempts are needed on average to quit smoking and Arrest COPD. Nicotine replacement and/or medications plus counseling work best.
  • Exercise: 20 to 30 minutes of exercise are ideal, 3-4 times a week. Include stretching and cardio plus strengthening—and rest up for it—exercise won’t hurt the lungs.
  • Take Steps to avoid devastating illness: 6 weeks before flu season, get a flu shot. Every 5 years, get a pneumonia vaccine. Take antibotics early for infections.

Resources and Support

  1. Better Breathers Club: For more than 40 years, the American Lung Association has offered Better Breathers Clubs to patients and their caregivers who are living with chronic lung disease. Better Breathers Clubs meet regularly and are led by trained facilitators. Patients and their loved ones learn ways to live better with COPD while getting support from others who share many of the same struggles. These support groups give patients tools they need to live with the best quality of life possible.

    For people living with COPD who feel alone and isolated, these support groups do help. Through educational programs, skills building and talking with others who understand, patients report that not only do they benefi t emotionally, but it also has a positive impact on their health. The Lung HelpLine is a toll-free resource for patients and their caregivers to speak with a registered nurse, respiratory therapist or quit smoking specialist about COPD.
    Call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) from 8 am–12 midnight, Eastern time.

  2. The Lung Institute, for treatment options, contact patient care coordinators at (855) 313-1149 to schedule a free consultationhttp://lunginstitute.com/

  3. 6 Tips for taking care of your loved ones-National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (PDF)
  4. American College of Chest Physicians
  5. Centers for Disease Control
  6. Cleveland Clinic