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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Archive: October 2015

Is it a Cold or the Flu?

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Flu season is approaching - could your cough be due to the flu or a cold? Sometimes it is difficult to tell - and since both can exacerbate COPD - it is important to be able to distinguish the differences.

According to WebMD, colds “usually begin abruptly with a sore throat followed by symptoms such as clear, watery nasal drainage; sneezing; fatigue; and sometimes a low-grade fever.”

“A mild cough is a common cold symptom. The cough won’t get much worse, but this common cold symptom is likely to last into the second week of your cold. If you suffer with asthma or other lung problem, a cold may make it worse. If you are coughing up dark mucus — or if you are feeling a lot of distress in the lower parts of your lungs — you may have a bacterial infection. It’s a good idea to touch base with your doctor to find out if you need to be seen. Usually, there is no fever with common cold symptoms. In fact, fever and more severe symptoms may indicate that you have the flu and not a cold.”

With the flu, people might feel very weak and fatigued for up to two or three weeks.

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Tags: cold cough flu illness prevention shot wheezing
Categories: Tips for Healthy Living

November marks National COPD Awareness Month!

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We are thrilled to announce the launch of National COPD Awareness Month on November 1, an internationally-recognized event held annually to enhance exposure around chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Throughout the month, the COPD Foundation will partner with respiratory health organizations to host various online and in-person activities that will allow COPD community members to rally, inform, and support one another.

There are many ways to get involved:

    COPD Awareness Month
  • Create a profile on our online community, COPD360social: the best way to connect with new friends who understand COPD.
  • Participate in the Twitter Chat of your choice. Providers are urged to participate in the #COPDChat, November 9 at 12 p.m. ET to talk about management, resources, and treatments. Patients and caregivers are encouraged to join us and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for the #Voices4COPD chat on November 18 at 2 p.m. ET.
  • Download the COPD Awareness Month social media toolkit to inform and educate your social network about the #MeAndCOPD campaign. It comes complete with infographics, sample posts, and fact-sheets for you to share.
  • Enter to win $250 and join the Patient-Powered Research Network, a new and easy way to help guide future COPD research.
  • Attend the Air Affair Gala to Benefit the COPD Foundation or plan a Breathe STRONG event in your town!
  • Submit your photo to the Faces of COPD digital mosaic - an online dedication to the millions of individuals affected by COPD. Stay tuned for updates and notifications around the final digital unveiling of the mosaic later in November on COPD360social.
  • Participate in the U.S. COPD Coalition meeting on November 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. ET. Register here to join the meeting via webinar.

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Tags: action activities advocacy awareness grassroots MeAndCOPD National COPD Awareness Month story
Categories: COPD Foundation Initiatives and Activities

How a Pulse Oximeter Works

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Dear COPD Coach,
My husband has been diagnosed with COPD but has not yet had pulmonary function tests to determine the type/severity. We purchased a pulse oximeter to monitor his 02 levels (he was sent home from the hospital on 4 liters but is now reduced to 2). My question is, do you take the first reading that comes up when the pulse oximeter is put on or do you wait 15 seconds and use that reading? Also, I would like to say this is one of the most informative websites I have found on COPD and I certainly appreciate the support it provides.

—Curious about Pulmonary Function Testing

Dear Curious,
A pulse oximeter can be a very useful tool for a COPD patient, providing you use it correctly and realize it has limitations.

The pulse oximeter measures two distinct things: The first number that comes up is most often the pulse rate. Usually this number is marked by a small heart. The second number that comes up is the level of oxygen in the blood. Both numbers are needed to assess your present levels.

At this point, it is important to discuss the limitations of the device. The pulse oximeter only gives you a limited amount of information, and is in reality just a snapshot of your functioning at that particular time. For example, it does not tell you the concentration of CO2 (Carbon Dioxide, the waste product of your breathing and something that is not healthy in high levels) in your blood stream. This means that you could be retaining a large amount of CO2, which could be limiting the amount of usable oxygen in your blood.

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Tags: lifestyle pulse oximeter tips use
Categories: Coaches Corner

Is Asthma COPD?

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Dear COPD Coach,
I was only 7 years old when I was diagnosed with Asthma. I was exposed to second-hand smoke from an uncle who was a heavy chain smoker, and he used to share my room at the time. I’m 30 years old now and am starting to experience more attacks and it seems my medications are sometimes useless. When I am experiencing an attack it feels like I’m between the moment of life and death until I get that gasp of air into my lungs. My grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer at 72 and passed away months later. He was also a very heavy smoker and even used to grow his own tobacco.

Should I start seeing a Pulmonary Doctor? I must admit I do get embarrassed when I get these attacks in front of friends and family because they all make me feel like I have some kind of disability, and my self-pride takes a hit because I’m still young and I shouldn’t be going through this, but what can I do? I never asked for this. What steps should I start making... because I don’t know where to start.

Thank you,
–Not Sure Where to Start

Dear Not Sure,
Your letter brings up an interesting topic: Is Asthma the same as COPD? The simple answer is no, although the two can overlap. In other words, it is possible to have a component of both.

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Tags: Asthma breathing lifestyle technique What is COPD
Categories: Coaches Corner

Home Exercise Equipment for COPD

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Dear Coach,
I am thinking about getting a treadmill and exercise bike to use for home exercising. What should I look for?

—Shoes Are Made for Walking

Dear Shoes,
I’m glad you asked! There’s a wide range of features, as well as poor to excellent quality, to be found in exercise equipment, and there are definitely special considerations when you have COPD. It’s tempting to shop at a garage sale or thrift store for inexpensive equipment, but before you go, you should know what to look for – and what to avoid. Here are some tips to consider before you shop for a treadmill or bike to use at home.


  • Make sure your treadmill is motorized. If you have COPD, it’s simply too much work to use a treadmill that requires you to push the belt yourself.
  • Get a treadmill that goes slowly enough. Remember, when you have COPD, exercise is not about speed, but endurance. In other words, you don’t have to go fast to get a lot of benefit. If your treadmill can go as slow as 0.6 MPH, that’s great. If not, a TM that goes as slow as 0.8 MPH will give most people with severe COPD a nice warm-up and plenty of room to go faster.
  • Make sure your treadmill will run at a flat level, with no grade (uphill). It’s good to have the option of adjusting the grade at a slight incline if you’re able. Try to get a treadmill with a padded walking surface; this makes a big difference in the comfort of your feet and how tired you become.
  • Choose a treadmill with an emergency shut off. This way if you were to trip and fall, the treadmill would automatically shut off, giving you a chance to get up and dust yourself off f from a surface that’s not moving.
  • Look for equipment with side bars for balance, in addition to a support bar out in front of you.

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Tags: COPD equipment exercise machine pulmonary
Categories: Coaches Corner

The Stages of COPD

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Dear COPD Coach,
After having a spirometry test in September, I visited my doctor a week ago for the results. I am a smoker–but I have cut back from one pack a day to two cigarettes a day. The results of the test were that I have mild to moderate COPD. The doctor prescribed medication and gave me a peak flow meter with instructions to take a reading twice a day.

My doctor told me that there is no cure for COPD, but that I should have no further progression if I do not smoke. I went home and since, have smoked another cigarette. What would be my prognosis for getting to Stage Three? Why would you label the disease as a stage if it can be managed?

Thank you,
—Wanting Answers

Dear Wanting,
First of all, congratulations on being able to quit smoking! That’s a huge first step and often the hardest! Not smoking will not only be better for your breathing, but will also offer a lifetime of benefits to your overall health!

You doctor is right in saying that there is no cure for COPD, but that COPD can be managed. Your ability to slow the progression of your symptoms will depend on several factors. Managing COPD will involve working closely with a pulmonary professional–taking your medications as prescribed and very importantly, learning to recognize the signs of an exacerbation (times when your symptoms get worse) and getting prompt treatment before small symptoms escalate into a full-blown episode or illness (COPD exacerbation).

The importance of exercise in a person with COPD cannot be over emphasized. You should involve yourself in a regular exercise program, preferably designed by a pulmonary rehabilitation expert. By exercising you will train your muscles to work with less oxygen, and as a result you will not get out of breath as easily and will dramatically improve your overall health!

Not smoking is a big step, but it will also entail staying away from secondhand smoke, chemicals fumes, pollution and, dust. All of these can aggravate your breathing and can lead to an exacerbation.

Education plays an important role, and can help you to take control of your life, your symptoms and your health. The more you learn about COPD, the better you will be able to recognize warning signs and adjust your lifestyle accordingly.

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Tags: life expectancy smoking stages
Categories: Coaches Corner

Milk Products and Mucus in COPD

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Dear COPD Coach,
I have always been told that if you have COPD you should not drink milk or milk products such as ice cream because it will produce mucus. Is this true? Why do I seem to have more problems with mucus since I was told I have COPD?

—Do Milk Products Affect COPD?

Dear Milk Products,
The idea that milk causes the body to produce mucus has actually been around for centuries. Finally, after all these years, studies have actually been performed to determine if this is indeed the case. The results were that milk does not cause the body to produce mucus, BUT it does cause the phlegm to thicken. It is believed that it is the fat content in the milk that causes this reaction. Milk has lots of benefits for the body, including being an excellent source of calcium and vitamins, so you have to weigh the benefits. There are ways to thin out the mucus, which will be mentioned later in this response.

Mucus actually performs an important purpose as it traps dirt and bacteria and small foreign objects and keeps them from entering our lungs. It also aids in digestion and keeps our respiratory tissues from drying out. It is secreted from membranes in our nose, airways, and windpipe. Cilia, the microscopic hairs in our respiratory system, sweep the dirty mucus upwards through the airways and move it towards the windpipe so that the particles can be coughed out or swallowed.

Why do COPD patients seem to have more problems with mucus? There are actually three explanations.

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Tags: airways breathing COPD milk mucous
Categories: Coaches Corner

Is Pulmonary Rehab for Me?

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Dear COPD Coach,
My doctor advised me to start going to pulmonary rehabilitation. I have never been much into exercise, and the thought of going really scares me. I get so out of breath just walking, I can’t imagine being able to do any of the exercises. Here is my question. Will it improve my breathing, and how will I be able to do any sort of exercising if I get out of breath just walking from the car to the facility?

-Out of Breath

Dear Out of Breath,
I can certainly understand your fear of exercise. The fear and panic of SOB (shortness of breath) is very intimidating even for those who have dealt with COPD for a long time. Interestingly enough, these reasons are exactly why you should participate in a pulmonary rehabilitation program!

Why? First of all, pulmonary rehabilitation will not improve your lung function. It will, however, enable greater endurance and cause you to feel less out of breath during exertion. How can this be? Actually, it is pretty basic. The air we breathe provides fuel for not only our various organs, but all the muscles in our body. At any given time, all of our muscles are demanding their fair share of oxygen. With limited lung function, our brain “goes into survival mode” and prioritizes where the oxygen is needed most which in most cases is our vital organs. As a result, when we exert ourselves, there is not enough oxygen available to properly saturate the muscles we use during the exertion. That’s why we experience being short of breath.

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Tags: exercise pulmonary rehab
Categories: Coaches Corner

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