Happy Wednesday, Everyone! I’m so excited to share my first Wednesday check-in with you. I’m new here at the COPD Foundation, and I am looking forward to getting to know you all.
I’m a certified asthma educator and have been a respiratory therapist for over 20 years! It certainly doesn’t feel that long! My favorite part of my job was when I would sit down with patients and their families and teach them tricks and tools for controlling their asthma and allergies. I really got to know my patients on a personal level during that time, and although I loved chatting with them and taking care of them during each hospitalization, my goal was to never see them again…that meant that we were successful, and they were staying out of the hospital! I also offered asthma and allergy classes for the community and for health care providers, too. I think that health education is just as important as medications and treatments. When you understand your condition and you recognize what makes you feel better or worse, you can live a healthier life.
It’s important for those of us with chronic lung conditions to be on the lookout for early warning signs of exacerbations or flare-ups so that they can be treated right away. Some common warning signs of a COPD exacerbation can include subtle symptoms like tiredness (who isn’t tired from time to time?) and a change in the color, thickness, or amount of mucus you cough up. While these symptoms can be easily overlooked when we’re busy or just not thinking about them, they are important clues that tell us that trouble is on the way.
There are other more noticeable signs of an exacerbation, too. These can include things like a fever, using your rescue (quick relief) medications more often than usual, swelling in your legs or ankles, and more shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing than you usually experience. It’s important to act quickly when you notice signs of an exacerbation so that you can treat it quickly and prevent it from getting worse.
Signs of an exacerbation can vary from person to person. For me, I know my asthma is starting to flare up when I feel a little burning tickle at the base of my throat. It’s very subtle and easy to overlook, so I always have to pay attention, especially during humid weather or “ozone action days” when the air quality is bad. Many of you with chronic lung conditions know all about those days and the trouble they can cause!
Now that you know my warning signs of a flare-up, I’d love to hear about yours. Think back to your most recent exacerbation. Were there any clues that an exacerbation was starting? Recognizing these small warning signs can help you to prevent more serious exacerbations in the future. Share your tips for catching those often-overlooked signs and join in the discussion below. I can’t wait to hear from you all! And if you’d like to learn more about COPD exacerbations and how to recognize them, check out our new and improved COPD Foundation Guides for Better Living Exacerbation Guide at copdf.co/guides. And while you’re there, take a peek at what’s new in our downloads library. We are redesigning all of our educational materials to be more modern and user friendly. Let us know what you think!