What is COPD Exacerbation?

When people with COPD illness experience periods of increased symptoms, it’s known as COPD exacerbation. These COPD flare-ups can often require medical help and hospitalization. Depending on the severity of COPD exacerbation you are experiencing, it is possible for them to cause further lung damage, so it is essential to seek medical help.

Common Causes of COPD Flare-Ups

There are a number of different causes of COPD flare-ups, and depending on your health and lifestyle, many can be avoided. It is helpful to be aware of triggers that may cause COPD exacerbation symptoms so you can avoid them whenever possible. While lung inflammation is typically the culprit of COPD exacerbation, the inflammation can be caused by infection or irritants. Here are some of the most common causes of COPD flare-ups. 

  • Pneumonia
  • Flu
  • Allergens like mold, pollen, dust mites, pet hair and dander
  • Air pollutants
  • Smoke
  • Toxic fumes or other strong odors
  • Temperature or weather extremes
  • Gusty winds
  • High altitudes

While certain triggers cannot be avoided, and periodic COPD illness and inflammation is likely to occur, knowing how to avoid common causes of COPD flare-ups can help reduce your risk of exacerbation. 

In order to minimize your risk of COPD exacerbation, it is recommended that you follow these tips to avoid triggers and minimize discomfort and symptoms of a COPD flare-up:

  • Do not smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke and wood smoke
  • Keep your indoor air clean and well ventilated by opening doors and windows when the outdoor air is good, or by running your air in fan mode
  • Use allergen filters on your furnace and air conditioner and replace them regularly
  • Keep your home tidy and clean
  • Avoid any harsh cleaning products or scented products, and ask friends not bring or wear scents near you
  • Consider an air purifier or humidifier to keep dust and pollen in check, but make sure you keep your humidifier clean and mold-free
  • Check the weather report before you leave the house so you can avoid extreme temperatures, wind and air pollution
  • Try wrapping a scarf around your face on windy or particularly cold days
  • Avoid high altitudes, but if you must travel to higher elevations, bring oxygen with you

Symptoms of Exacerbations

In order to identify a COPD exacerbation as it is coming on, it is helpful to know the symptoms of COPD flare-ups so you can watch out for them. COPD exacerbation symptoms can come on unexpectedly, so make sure you know what to look for. Here are the COPD exacerbation symptoms that could mean a flare-up is imminent.

  • Shortness of breath, particularly if it occurs even during light activity or while at rest.
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Coughing
  • Feeling sleepy
  • Experiencing lower than normal oxygen levels
  • Increased wheezing
  • Increased colorful mucus

Some COPD exacerbation symptoms indicate excess carbon dioxide in your system and should be treated extremely seriously. If you or a loved one experience any of the following symptoms, the severity of your COPD exacerbation now requires immediate medical attention.

  • Confusion
  • The inability to catch your breath
  • Difficulty walking even very short distances
  • A severe headache 

Because of the risk of permanent lung damage, or damage to other vital organs, COPD exacerbation symptoms should be taken very seriously. When it comes to COPD sickness, it is best to err on the side of caution.

Using Inogen with COPD

A variety of treatments may be used to treat your COPD flare-ups depending on the cause and severity of COPD exacerbation you are experiencing. Treatments may include bronchodilators, glucocorticosteroids, respiratory stimulants, antibiotics and oxygen therapy. If your doctor prescribes oxygen therapy for your COPD exacerbation, Inogen’s portable oxygen concentrators can help. 

COPD sickness impacts your daily life, even in its early stages. However, oxygen therapy can help you breathe easier so you can continue to participate in the activities you enjoy. Inogen believes that oxygen treatments should improve your life rather than getting in the way, so we have developed small, portable oxygen concentrators to help you get the oxygen you need anytime, anywhere. The Inogen One G4, Inogen One G3, and Inogen One G5 are all small and lightweight enough to carry with you, allowing you to go about your life while receiving oxygen therapy. If you have COPD, and particularly if you have a history of COPD flare-ups, oxygen therapy can minimize COPD exacerbation symptoms and improve oxygen intake, giving you relief from feelings of breathlessness. Because Inogen’s portable oxygen concentrators are easy to use whether at home or on the go, you can continue to do the things you love while maintaining your oxygen therapy schedule. 

As always, it is important to listen to your doctor’s recommendations and oxygen therapy must be used under medical advisement. However, many COPD patients find that oxygen treatments greatly reduce their quality of life after a COPD exacerbation. Talk to your doctor today about whether oxygen therapy is right for you, and contact Inogen to find out more about how our portable oxygen concentrators can help you manage your COPD exacerbation symptoms. COPD sickness may require some life changes, but Inogen can help. Find out more today. 


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