Cheat Sheet

COPD For Dummies

From COPD For Dummies by Kevin Felner, Meg Schneider

If you’re living with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), you can make your daily routine easier by following some tips for tracking your COPD medications and properly planning a short trip away from home. Recognize the COPD symptoms that require medical attention. Keep important information — like your doctor’s name and number, plus a current medication list — handy for family and friends to find, if necessary.

Managing Your COPD Meds

The combinations of COPD medicines and therapy can be confusing — especially if you have to remember meds at certain times of the day or intervals throughout the day. Keeping your COPD medicine routine under control is vital for your health (and your wallet), so try these tips to maintain your meds:

  • Work your meds into your regular routine. Place your morning pills next to the coffee maker, for example, and put your evening meds next to your toothbrush.

  • Get a wristwatch with an alarm. Or use a kitchen timer or an alarm clock in the living room to remind you to take your timed meds. When you take your dose, reset the alarm for your next scheduled dose.

  • Use a weekly or monthly pillbox. Some of them have multiple compartments for morning, midday, and evening, so you can be sure you’ve taken your meds — or keep track of which doses you’ve missed.

  • Mark refill dates on your calendar. To make sure you don’t run out of any of your meds, make a note to get your refills (or renewed prescriptions, if necessary) a week before you’ll actually need them.

  • Keep track of side effects. Sometimes a different dose, or a different version of a particular type of medication, can minimize or even eliminate side effects, so be sure to talk to your doctor about your side effects and options for dealing with them.

Spending Time in Public When You Have COPD

Having COPD doesn’t mean being confined to your home, even if you’re on oxygen therapy you can get out if you feel up to it. A little planning and preparation will make outings less stressful, both physically and mentally, so be smart about what you do and when you do it by following these tips:

  • Check the weather. Hot, humid, windy days are best spent indoors, as are rainy and very cold days.

  • Avoid large crowds. Plan shopping trips on weekday mornings, for example, when the stores are less crowded.

  • Assess your energy. Plan your outings for the time of day when you feel most energetic.

  • Be prepared. Always carry a full day’s supply of meds with you, just in case. If you’re on oxygen, make sure you have a reserve tank in the car.

  • Have a plan for eating out. Look for small portion offerings, or ask to have half your meal put in a to-go container. Other options: Split one meal with your companion, or look among the appetizers, where portion sizes usually are smaller.

COPD Signs to Get Medical Help Quickly

Be on the lookout for COPD signs that require medical attention either from your doctor or a trip to the emergency room. If your meds just don’t seem to be helping, or your symptoms suddenly get worse it’s time to get medical help. Use these tips to decide when you should call your doctor or go to the hospital:

Call your doctor if:

  • Your coughing gets worse.

  • You cough up more mucus than usual.

  • Your mucus is yellow, green, or brown.

  • You have a fever.

  • You have a hard time catching your breath.

Call 911 if:

  • You have difficulty walking or talking.

  • Your lips or fingernails look blue or gray.

  • Your heart is beating very fast, or your heartbeat is irregular.

  • Your breathing is hard and fast, and using your medicines doesn’t help.

  • You’re progressively feeling less improvement after using your rescue inhalers.

Keeping COPD Records

Each time you visit a doctor about your COPD, go over the medications you’re taking including dosage and when you take them. Record the information on a chart, like the following, and keep it with you and post a copy on the refrigerator where loved ones can find it in case of emergency. Remember to include not only prescribed meds, but any over-the counter medications and vitamins or supplements you take.

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