Keeping it all Straight: How to Plan for Medication Changes
Posted on February 15, 2022 |
This post was authored by Kristen Szymonik, BS, RRT, AE-C
When you have a COPD exacerbation or flare-up, often your health care providers will suggest changes in your medication regimen. They may tell you to take a different dose of your medication or add new medications to your schedule. Many people with COPD take multiple medications that are used with different timing and doses. Adding new medications to this schedule can be complicated and confusing, especially when you’ve been on the same schedule for several months or years.
You might be wondering how you could possibly keep all of this information straight. First, make a list of all your medications, the dosage, and when you should use them. For example, you may write “Albuterol, 2 puffs, every 4 hours as needed.” You should also write down any special instructions like "use a spacer" or "rinse mouth after use." Once your list is complete, organize the information into a calendar, datebook, or schedule so that you have a written plan to follow. You can use the COPD Foundation's My COPD Action Plan to help you. Your health care provider can fill out the My COPD Action Plan with you and design a plan that you can follow on good days and bad. Some people also like to use reminders on their cell phones that can be set to tell them when to take their medications. Others use kitchen timers, alarm clocks, charts, calendars, or even just a regular notebook. Keep your medication schedule handy in a place where you will always see it. This could be on your fridge, by your phone, or on your bedside table.
The next step in organizing your medication schedule is knowing how to take your medications correctly. When you receive new medications after a hospitalization or flare-up, ask your health care provider how to use it properly. While some inhalers may look the same, you may have to use them differently. If you are not sure how to use your inhaler or nebulizer, you can watch instructional videos on our website. We offer videos that explain the use, care, and cleaning of all the main types of inhalers and nebulizers.
Lastly, be sure to ask your health care provider about the order in which you should take your medications. Generally speaking, bronchodilators are used before inhaled steroids or other daily medications. Bronchodilators, such as albuterol, are medications that work quickly to improve your shortness of breath. Taking a bronchodilator first allows your lungs to open up in preparation for the next dose of medication. This allows your medications to travel deeper in your lungs and work more effectively. You can learn more about the different types of COPD medications and the brand names of each one on our website.
Understanding how to use your inhalers, knowing when to take them, and remembering to take them on time are all important parts of managing your COPD. While it's not always easy to keep track of the different medications you take, tools are available to help you. And if you are not sure, ask your health care team. That is what they are there for!