What is COPD?
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the name given to a number of lung conditions, such as, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease. It is a narrowing of your airways making it difficult to breath; you may also get a persistent cough with phlegm and frequent chest infections.
What are the symptoms of COPD?
- Difficulty breathing, especially during physical activity
- Persistent cough with phlegm
- Persistent wheezing
- Frequent chest infections
What can trigger my COPD?
There are certain triggers that may make your COPD suddenly worse. Whenever you experience these exacerbations or "flare ups", make sure you notify your GP immediately so that they can help. Once you have identified your triggers it is best to avoid them as much as possible and as best you can.
The main triggers are:
- Weather - The weather can be one of your main triggers. When it’s hot try and stay in cool room or cool areas, especially during the heat of the day. If you have to go out make sure to wear a hat and sunglasses, to protect yourself from the sun. Make sure to keep an eye on the pollen count and make sure to keep your doors and windows closed during the morning and evening, when the pollen is at its highest.
- Smoking - The most common cause of COPD is smoking. So quitting smoking all together is one of the main ways to ease your symptoms. If you do smoke and would like to quit ask a member of the LloydsPharmacy team in your local store for advice. LloydsPhramcy Online Doctor can also offer you support and advice, simply visit their website.
- Exercise - It is extremely important to try and exercise as much as you can. You might not want to exercise because it makes you breathless, but light regular exercise such as short daily walks can really help to ease your symptoms.
- Infections - Flu and pneumonia can intensify the symptoms of COPD, so get vaccinated every year. Ask in your local LloydsPharmacy store for details on our annual winter vaccinations programme.
What treatment is available?
Whilst there is no cure for COPD, the symptoms can be manageable and by controlling it, you can reduce symptoms and "flare ups" which will help you lead a normal life. Inhalers are usually the main type of treatment, with preventers, relievers (usually blue) and combination inhalers.
There are also medicines that help reduce the viscosity of your sputum (the substance you cough up) so you may be prescribed tablets. It is very important to use your inhaler regularly, even if your COPD symptoms seem to be under control. It is also important to use your inhaler correctly or you won’t get the full benefit from this medication.
What is a COPD machine?
A COPD machine also known as a respiratory device, is a form of treatment to help you manage your condition and improve lung health. The REVITIVE aerosure is an easy-to-use and drug-free device which works to strengthen your lungs. The machine has been scientifically tested and features a spinning valve design that rapidly opens and closes the flow of air that is being taken in and out of the lungs. Simply breathe in and out of the mouthpiece to create a resistance of air that vibrates the chest walls causing the muscles in your lungs to work harder and so improve your respiratory fitness.
A nebuliser could also be a great option for you if your inhaler is not working as it should be, or perhaps it cannot deliver the amount of medication you need. Find out more about how nebulisers can help you.
How should I use my inhaler?
For the pressurised, metered-dose inhaler:
- You must always shake it before use
- Put it in your mouth and make a seal with your lips around the mouth piece
- Press the canister at the top to release the drug while inhaling it in one deep breath
If your inhaler doesn’t look like the one on the picture, follow the instructions from the manufacturer and inhale as directed. Otherwise pop into your local pharmacy and one of our pharmacists will be happy to help.
Managing your COPD symptoms
Stay as fit as possible
According to the NHS, people with COPD who exercise or keep active on a regular basis have improved breathing, less severe symptoms and a better quality of life. Ask your GP about pulmonary rehabilitation – a structured programme of exercise provided by healthcare professionals and designed for people with long-term lung conditions such as COPD.
Some people with COPD are susceptible to losing weight because they use up so much energy breathing. Eating plenty of nutritious foods – including foods high in protein – can help boost your calorie intake, which can stop you from becoming underweight. Try having smaller, more frequent, meals and snacks if it helps, and choose soft foods that are easy to chew if you’re struggling with chewing and breathing at the same time.
Meanwhile, if you’re overweight or obese, you may find it more difficult to breathe and move around. If you have COPD and you need to lose – rather than gain – weight, speak to your GP. We have experts that can also give you plenty of advice about healthy weight loss.
Try to avoid places where there may be excessive exhaust fumes – petrol stations or underground car parks, for examples. If you find fumes from everyday household products such as cleaning products, air fresheners, perfume or hairspray irritate your lungs, avoid using them whenever possible or speak to our Pharmacist about alternatives.
Try to avoid stress, as it can make your symptoms worse. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep whenever possible too, as it may help boost your energy levels.
Keep the right temperature
Extremes of temperature can cause problems for people with COPD, triggering symptoms such as breathlessness. During the winter, make sure you wrap up warm, both indoors and outdoors. And on hot summer days, try to stay in a cool place out of the sun whenever possible.
Get a flu jab
Make sure you have your free jab every year, as your symptoms could get much worse if you catch flu. You should also have had the anti-pneumonia jab – which you only need once – to protect against infection during the winter. Plus, it’s a good idea to avoid people with colds, sore throats and other infections – if you do catch a bug, see your GP to prevent any further damage to your lungs. Flu vaccinations are available in selected LloydsPharmacy stores from September – February.
How can I control my breathlessness?
One of the best ways to deal with breathlessness is Pulmonary Rehabilitation. This combines exercise, with education and support to help you learn to breathe as well as you can. If you are feeling breathless just take five minutes to sit down and relax. You could also try relaxed, slow, deep breathing, and breathing with pursed lips (like when you whistle).
You can take control of your condition with a self-management plan; this will teach you how to monitor your COPD by understanding your triggers and medication, while helping you to know what to do if you have an exacerbation.
Speak to your prescriber about setting up your own self- management plan or download one from the British Lung Foundation.
How can LloydsPharmacy help?
If you have any questions or would like and come check your technique, we offer a variety of services which we guarantee to help you:
- Measure the impact that COPD has on your wellbeing and daily life with a questionnaire called COPD assessment test
- Discuss your medicines and manage any concerns you have about them
- Check you’re using your inhalers correctly using In-check Dial Device
- Advise you about other aids that may help your breathing and medication, including spacers, peak flow meters and Haleraids
- Advise you on how to stop smoking and support you on your quitting journey
- Provide annual flu and pneumococcal jabs
You can keep on top of your condition with our Online Doctor Service. We can provide you with the preventer and reliever inhalers you need for either same day collection or next day delivery.