Early warning signs of an acute exacerbation:
You can learn to avoid acute exacerbations by recognizing early warning signs and then taking action to stop them in their tracks! The best way to do this is to work with your health care provider on an action plan so you know what to do to treat an exacerbation before it becomes serious. Show your health care provider the following list of early warning signs and ask, “When do you want me to call you?”
It is important that you call your doctor at the earliest sign of a flare-up. He/she will help you make decisions on the best course of action for you. This may include different medicines from the ones you are regularly taking.
Warning signs that a flare-up is happening or about to happen are different for each person. Most of the time, you will know best when your breathing problems are getting worse. But sometimes, some signs of a problem will be noticed by your friends and family first. Make sure your friends and family are aware of the signs below.
The most common signs and symptoms of an oncoming exacerbation are:
- Low grade fever that doesn't go away.
- Increased use of rescue medications.
- Change in color thickness, odor, or amount of mucus.
- Tiredness that lasts more than one day.
- New or increased ankle swelling.
- More wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath than usual.
In addition, an exacerbation may come with:
- More morning headaches, dizzy spells, and restlessness.
- A need to increase your oxygen, if you are on oxygen.
- Rapid breathing.
- Rapid heart rate.
Call 911 for Dangerous Warning Signs
- Confusion, disorientation, or slurring of speech.
- Severe shortness of breath or chest pain.
- Blue color in lips or fingers.
During a flare-up, your doctor may suggest that you use nebulized medicines. Many of the bronchodilators and corticosteroid medicines are prescribed for use in a nebulizer. This is a device that turns liquid medicine into vapor so you can inhale it. If your doctor prescribes these drugs, your home oxygen supplier or pharmacy should have an appropriate nebulizer for you to use. Most prescription plans cover nebulizers.
Another option your doctor may suggest is using a short oral/systemic course of steroids, and/or a course of antibiotics.