COPD Foundation Blog

Find inspirational stories, tips from the COPD Coach, events, and current news on the COPD community blog. Have a question regarding COPD that you would like to share with our community? Contact our COPD Coach. Coaches Corner is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice. If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at We would love to hear your questions and comments.

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We Need Your Comments for the National COPD Action Plan

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The COPD Foundation has long advocated for the need to create a coordinated, comprehensive national plan to tackle the COPD epidemic in the U.S. Earlier in the year, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) hosted the COPD Town Hall meeting to gather input on what should be included in the first ever National COPD Action Plan.

We are pleased to report that the first draft of the National Action Plan has been published!

The NHLBI team has brought together the input from all those at the Town Hall but now YOUR voice is critical. In order for the plan to address the problems faced by patients, caregivers, providers, researchers and more, they MUST hear from you directly about what those problems are and what types of solutions you would suggest.

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Tags: National COPD Action Plan
Categories: Advocacy

5 Things You Should Know About Pneumococcal Disease

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Kip Adams, Chief Corporate Relations Officer, COPD Foundation

Patients living with COPD work hard every day at something most of us take for granted—breathing. As fundamental as life itself, the effort it takes for some of our patients to take their next breath can be hard to watch. One of the greatest risks for patients with COPD is contracting a disease that impacts the lungs, such as pneumococcal disease.

5 things you should know about pneumococcal disease Some estimates show that as many of 1/3 of adults aged 18-64 have a chronic medical condition that increases their risk for contracting pneumococcal disease. That is why it is critical that we educate patients about prevention and ways to keep their disease from worsening.

We are working hard to educate our members about the risks of contracting pneumococcal disease—and why and how they must do everything they can to avoid contracting it. The number one way for anyone at risk for the disease to avoid it is to be vaccinated. Older adults living with COPD and other chronic conditions need to talk to their health care provider in order to ensure they are protected.

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Tags: pneumococcal disease vaccinations
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

Will Exercise Improve My O2 Saturation?

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Dear COPD Coach,
I know it is important to have a regular exercise program to improve breathing, and that pulmonary rehabilitation is a great way of exercising. Will my exercising also improve my oxygen saturation for daily activities I do without using O2, and will it keep my oxygen saturations higher while doing the 6 minute walk at my doctors?

Thank you,
Into Exercise

Dear Into Exercise,
It is known that muscles that are in better condition do a better job of utilizing oxygen. When you’re in better shape, you can do more, even if your lung condition itself does not change. However, if a person with COPD increases their fitness level through exercise, it cannot be assumed that they will require less oxygen, or no longer need their supplemental oxygen. Again, your lungs are damaged and that cannot be reversed.

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Tags: exercise and COPD O2 saturation
Categories: Coaches Corner

Too Embarrassed to Ask?

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Dear COPD Coach,
I have a rather embarrassing question to ask you. I was diagnosed with moderate COPD just a few years ago. While I am still able to get around fairly well and am just on oxygen at night, I have noticed that lately when I get out of breath during activity I get this huge urge to either urinate or have a bowel movement. Sometimes this urge is over-powering and I am embarrassed to say that it has on a couple occasions resulted in having an “accident.”

My first question is why this happens, and secondly, what can I do about it?

-Need To Go

Dear Need To Go,
This problem is fairly common with those with respiratory problems and often one we do not discuss outside our COPD circle of friends. What is actually occurring is that when you get out of breath, your brain goes into (for lack of a better term) survival mode. In this mode, the brain triggers blood to the most essential organs that must keep working for us to remain alive. Unfortunately, this does not include the bladder or sphincter muscles. The result is the sudden need to either urinate or have a bowel movement. Often times after experiencing this urge, when you are finally able to eliminate, you might be somewhat surprised how little is actually eliminated.

Panic with COPD With that said, there are some things you can do. Personally, my COPD philosophy is that I have never met a restroom I didn’t like, and rarely pass up an opportunity to visit when I am out and about. In fact I have gotten in the habit and become somewhat an expert in scouting out locations of convenient restroom facilities. While use of the facilities whenever possible does not reduce the urge to eliminate, it does significantly reduce the chances of a major accident!

Since I travel in excess of 100,000 miles a year this has become a major concern - especially in airports. Just before boarding, and often times before deplaning, I make it a point to use the restroom whether I feel the urge or not. Since regaining my usual oxygen saturations after a flight takes a little time (even though I use oxygen), I find that making my way up the jet way incline often causes me to get out of breath, so it just makes sense to anticipate what is most probably inevitable. I have spoken with others in similar circumstances who tell me when they anticipate excursions that might cause them to get short of breath they actually use adult incontinence products. There are new products becoming available all the time, most with very little bulk, so you can be reasonably assured that nobody will know but you.

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Categories: Coaches Corner

The Importance of Indoor Air Quality

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Allergies, illness, and long-term health can be impacted by the quality of the air inside our homes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside our home can be two to ten times worse than outside air. This is not surprising since for the last forty years consumers have been working to improve energy efficiency in their homes. The rapid rise in the occurrence of allergies and other breathing disorders caused by the increased level of contaminants in indoor air means the problem is real and only getting worse. It can often be difficult for our immune systems to keep up with the abundance of particles, germs and gases that are locked inside our tight, energy-efficient homes.

Is Your Home Making You Sick?

There are many sources of indoor air pollution in a home. These can include combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, or wood, tobacco products, building materials and furnishings, asbestos-containing insulation, wet or damp carpet, cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products, products for household cleaning and personal care, and outdoor sources such as radon, pesticides, and outdoor air pollution.

 Airborne contaminants, size in Microns So imagine breathing those in. Our bodies act like filters. We will generally catch the larger contaminants, yet the smallest of these – and the ones that are potentially the most injurious to our health, pass into our lungs and often into our bloodstreams.

Particles: Have you ever seen the sun’s rays streaming through a window and you can see all of the dust floating around in the sunbeam? There are millions of microscopic particles that float around in the air all the time. And those in the sunbeam are only the ones that are actually big enough to see. Ninety eight percent of all airborne particles measure below 1 micron (1/25,000 inch) in size and are invisible to the naked eye.

Studies show that breathing particles that measure below three microns in size can be detrimental to our health and 98% of all particles we breathe are less than one micron in size. That's some small stuff that disposable filters are not capable of removing from the air.

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Tags: air quality solutions HVAC indoor air quality
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

Pneumococcal Disease: What You Should Know

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Adults with COPD disease at greater risk for contracting the potentially deadly disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month! Are you current on your shots? Despite recent headlines about the benefits of vaccinations at fighting disease, many adults still aren’t up to date.

National Immunizations Month Pneumococcal Disease For adults living with a chronic disease like COPD, the risks of being under-vaccinated are even greater. As many as one-third of adults living with a chronic illness are at greater risk of contracting the potentially deadly pneumococcal disease. Worse, if a person living with COPD contracts pneumococcal disease, the long term potential for worsening of their disease is elevated.

So what is pneumococcal disease? Pneumococcal disease is an infection caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium, also known as pneumococcus. Infection can result in pneumonia, infection of the blood, middle-ear infection, or bacterial meningitis. The bacterium spreads from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. People may become infected if someone with the disease coughs or sneezes in close proximity.

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Tags: CDC National Immunization Awareness Month pneumococcal vaccine
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

Coughing Spasms: Is it COPD?

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Dear COPD Coach,
I don't want to waste your time, but my father has been experiencing trouble breathing, coughing spasms, and loss of consciousness due to coughing. I'm scared, I don't know if he has COPD or not but he's been to the doctor and all they say is that it's just his asthma but it's getting severe. We're hoping he gets tested but he's skeptical about doctors. I'm only 14 and I don't know anything about COPD and I need help please. I don't know if he even has it but my whole family is scared. Please give me some information on this disease and maybe some tips I can give to my dad to help him breathe better. Any help is appreciated, thank you.

-Concerned Son

Dear Concerned Son,
First of all, you are not wasting my time! You have some very valid questions and concerns! Coughing can be a part of COPD, and might be something called chronic bronchitis. Chronic bronchitis causes a person to have to cough a lot often bring up mucus. Sometimes it is difficult to bring up the mucus because it is too far into the lung or too thick. There are medications and medical devices that can help to clear the lungs more easily.

“COPD and the Family As for the coughing until he loses consciousness: when you cough, you raise the pressure in the chest which then interrupts the blood flow back to the heart and eventually to the brain for a short period of time. The result is that often the person becomes dizzy or passes out. When the coughing stops, the blood flow returns to normal and the brain begins functioning normally. When your dad feels a coughing spasm coming on, he should sit down and breathe as much as he can through the coughing cycle. If he is driving or operating machinery, he should cease the activity until the spasm stops. I know this may sound frightening, but as long as he is sitting or not involved in driving or other activities, he will be fine when the coughing stops.

You are right that he should be tested. He should ask his doctor for a referral to a pulmonary doctor who can help get to the bottom of it. The tests are pretty simple and should be able to tell him if he has COPD or some other condition that might be causing his symptoms.

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Tags: COPD coughing spasms family caregiving support
Categories: Coaches Corner

COPD in 2016

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This blog post was written by Dr. Byron Thomashow, COPD Foundation Chairman of the Board.

The times are changing. All COPD is not the same and everyone with COPD should not be treated the same way. For over 50 years, we have known that some people with advanced COPD have increased survival when they use Oxygen. For over 20 years, we have known that there is an inherited form of COPD called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency that can be treated with intravenous therapy. Everyone with COPD should be tested for alpha-1.

“Dr. Byron Thomashow For over 10 years, we have known that a subset of people with upper lobe predominate emphysema can benefit from a surgical procedure called Lung Volume Reduction Surgery where the worst areas of emphysema are removed. In carefully selected patients, this procedure can improve quality of life, exercise capacity, and even survival, the first therapy since Oxygen shown to improve survival in advanced COPD. We are now developing less invasive approaches using a flexible tube called a bronchoscope which allows placement of valves or coils to perform lung volume reduction. Several of these devices have already been approved in Europe and will be evaluated here by the FDA in coming years.

Over the last decade we he have learned that there are people with COPD who are “frequent exacerbators”, who have two or more “flares of disease” a year and that they behave differently than those with COPD who are not “frequent exacerbators.” We now have a number of excellent medications that can treat these “frequent exacerbators” and reduce the “flares of disease.” We are learning that even this group can be better defined. We now know that those with a chronic bronchitic form of COPD with chronic cough and sputum who have frequent exacerbations could benefit from a daily oral pill. And more recently we are learning that “frequent exacerbators” with an elevated number of eosinophils (allergy blood cells) might well benefit from specific therapy, and new therapies for this subtype are already being studied.

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Tags: advances in COPD COPD cure treatment
Categories: Medications, Treatments and Therapies

Why Advocate?

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This blog post was written by Karen Deitemeyer, COPD State Captain and community advocate.

Do you remember what the Lorax said? “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get done. It’s not.”

Lorax quotes

Well, that’s pretty much how I feel and why I have been an advocate for various issues for most of my life. I remember, as a child, going with my mother to various American Cancer Society (ACS) events in my hometown – selling daffodils to raise money for the ACS.

Then, when I was a teenager, my mother had to have a radical mastectomy. For many years as an adult I advocated for more and more research dollars for the ACS, for more support and more awareness of breast cancer. The increased funding has led to less disfiguring, less radical surgeries, and when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, I had many more options, and a much greater chance of survival than my mother did.

I was officially diagnosed with COPD in 2001, but it wasn’t until a few months after my breast cancer surgery in 2008 that I realized that although breast cancer has many advocates, who raise lots of funds and awareness, there was nothing comparable for COPD.

So I chose to focus my energy on COPD - to speak to decision makers, to other patients, to providers, to anyone who would listen. COPD has been ignored for way too long!! The death rate from COPD is greater than the death rate from breast cancer and diabetes combined, yet those two diseases receive far more funding and awareness.

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Tags: advocacy COPD get involved Lorax quotes patient-powered research network
Categories: Personal Stories

New Medications for COPD?

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Dear COPD Coach,
Why aren’t there more drugs out there for COPD? Other people with COPD that I talk with seem to all take the same medications. Also, I am always hearing about some big advances in research with other diseases, but I don’t hear much about COPD. What is going on?

—Looking for Answers

Dear Looking,
This is a topic that is very much a concern for those in the COPD community. However, the answer is not really an easy one to explain, but I will try.

The importance of research for COPD COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and unlike many of the other diseases, the numbers continue to rise. As far as new medications, much of this development depends on research. What is interesting to note is that despite this dubious distinction, COPD consistently gets the lowest levels of research funding. Simply put, without the research, cures and new treatments are slow in coming.

Even with research, drug makers must face many hurdles in order for their product to make it to market. As a part of this process, the drug companies must do extensive trials in order to establish such things as product safety, dosage, side effects, interactions with other drugs, to name a few. In order to conduct these trials, the investigators must establish a protocol and once approved must recruit a cohort, which is a group of patients who are willing to participate. Establishing a trial and recruiting a cohort can be difficult, expensive, and very time consuming. Some cohorts have taken as long as a year to recruit, and often are the biggest obstacle for drug makers to overcome.

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Tags: COPD cures research
Categories: Coaches Corner

An Amazing Journey to the Top of the World

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This blog post was written by Janina Kowalski, Associate Director of Development at the COPD Foundation.

It is June 2016 and Chase Hinckley is making his way towards the world’s second highest mountain, K2. A foreboding mountain on the China-Pakistan border, K2 sits at an elevation of 28,251 ft. It’s a uniquely challenging mountain that has only seen 306 people summit its peak and never during the winter.

Climbing the K2 for COPD K2 sits about 800 feet below Mt. Everest but unlike it, features very little flat terrain. K2 is a very difficult and technical climb; the mountain is a cone of ice and limestone with 45-degree angles. It is considered a harder climb than Everest because it is a steep mountain with unpredictable weather.

To put it simply, K2 is the ultimate challenge. For Chase Hinckley, climbing K2 is not only a challenge of his own personal limits, but an opportunity to raise funds for COPD.

Why is Chase Hinckley climbing K2 for COPD? For Chase, COPD hits close to home. His grandmother has been living with COPD for years and he’s been touched by her struggle.

Chase is no stranger to mountains; he’s scaled Denali, Mt. Rainier, and Kilimanjaro. Chase feels that his experiences mountaineering has given him a unique perspective in what it is like to struggle for air.

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Tags: climbing COPD awareness K2 savage mountain
Categories: Personal Stories

A Look at COPD from a Child's Eye

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We are all aware of the impact COPD has on the patient- the shortness of breath, fatigue, exacerbations, social isolation, and daily struggles are ever-present. But how does COPD affect those who bear witness to their loved one’s hardship? What are some of the challenges that caregivers, friends, and families experience? 300 million individuals live with COPD worldwide, but millions more lives are touched in one way or another by the disease.

The COPD Foundation worked with storytelling agency Make Believe UK and Novartis to create an new animated short called, “A Child’s Eye” to give viewers a glimpse into life with COPD from a loved one’s perspective. The story follows a young child in who slowly comes to grips with the reality of his grandfather’s COPD diagnosis. Activities they once enjoyed were no longer shared, with every missed event marked by a note from his grandfather wishing he were there. The story takes a positive turn when the child’s grandfather receives the education, community support, and treatment he needs. COPD is not a death sentence- early diagnosis, pulmonary rehabilitation, education, and support are all factors that can lend a new lease on life.

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Tags: A Child's Eye animation caregiving Make Believe UK
Categories: Related COPD News

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