Rhythm Aren’t Just Pretty Names › Back to COPD and Other
Huffers & Puffers Notice Air Quality
COPDers often hear of or read about “COPD Flare-Ups.” The
exacerbation means a worsening of symptoms – breathlessness, cough,
sputum and usually treated with antibiotics though the reasons for
the flare-up may not be known. The symptoms are similar to those of
pneumonia or infection of the lung … sort of a guess, thanks to the
mystery and lack of research for COPD.
Call your doctor and discuss with her/him a plan of action for
future exacerbations or flare-ups. Some COPDers keep antibiotics on
hand…it all depends on the plan the doctor and COPDer have in place
for future attacks. Good health care for the patient is a
partnership with her/his doctor.
COPDers are different in response to different ‘triggers’. Heavy
air makes breathing difficult for some of us…other COPDers might
The different forms of air quality affect most of us though and
it pays to be aware of the changing weather conditions. If needed,
make changes in the day’s plan for those especially sensitive to
According to the American Lung Association of Washington, while
tomorrow’s air is labeled “Good”, today’s air quality is only
The following explanation of a Flare-Up by the nation’s #1
hospital, Johns Hopkins, (according to US News & World Reports)
is a good ‘keep on hand.’
COPD Flare-Up Advice
COPD complications can be serious. Johns Hopkins specialists
provide bottom line advice to help you recognize a COPD problem
before it turns dangerous.
If you have COPD, how do you know when you’re not merely in
discomfort, but in danger? Here are some danger signs that you
· COPD flare-ups and infections. If you feel increasing
shortness of breath, more mucus in your throat, and greater
wheezing and coughing than usual, you may be experiencing a COPD
flare-up — something you need to share with your doctor. You should
also call if the material you cough up changes color or if you have
a fever lasting more than 24 hours. COPD flare-ups often result
from a bronchial infection, which may be treatable with
antibiotics, or from breathing fumes, dust, or pollution.
· COPD and heart failure. Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet
is a warning that someone with COPD may have developed a type of
heart failure called cor pulmonale, or right ventricular failure.
Because COPD makes the heart work harder (particularly the right
side, which pumps blood into the lungs), that side of the heart may
enlarge. As the blood pressure in the lungs rises, the right
ventricle contracts less efficiently. Cor pulmonale increases the
risk that a blood clot will develop in a leg vein.
· COPD and pneumothorax. A hole that develops in the lung,
allowing air to escape into the space between the lung and the
chest wall, pneumothorax causes the lung to collapse, leading to
severe shortness of breath. People with COPD have an increased risk
of pneumothorax, because changes in their lungs cause air to be
emptied unevenly from the lungs. Symptoms of pneumothorax include:
sudden shortness of breath; painful breathing; sharp chest pain,
often on one side; chest tightness; dry, hacking cough; rapid heart
· COPD and too many red blood cells. Weakness, headaches,
fatigue, and light-headedness may indicate the presence of an
uncommon condition known as secondary polycythemia, which arises
when there isn’t enough oxygen in the blood. Someone who develops
polycythemia may have visual disturbances such as blind spots,
distorted vision, and flashes of light. Gums and small cuts may
bleed, and there may be a burning sensation in the hands and the
Bottom line advice on COPD: If the problem is a flare-up of
COPD, quick treatment can prevent serious breathing problems that
might send you to the hospital. Call your doctor immediately
· You have COPD and you have shortness of breath or wheezing
that is rapidly worsening.
· You have COPD and are coughing more deeply or more frequently,
especially if you have an increase in mucus or a change in the
color of the mucus you cough up.
· You have COPD and cough up blood.
· You have COPD and have increased swelling in your legs or
· You have COPD and have a fever over 100 degrees F.
· You have COPD and have severe chest pain.
· You have COPD and develop flu-like symptoms.
· You have COPD and feel that your medication is not working as
well as usual.
Yours for healthy air… Sharon O’Hara