One of the most common problems for individuals with COPD is an acute exacerbation, a flare-up or time when you are no longer stable and become ill with breathing problems. An acute exacerbation can linger far longer than a common cold, sometimes leading to serious illness. It can also cause anxiety and uncertainty, but it doesnt have to be this way. To avoid acute exacerbations of COPD, know the early and dangerous warning signs and be on the lookout everyday.
A low-grade persistent fever is a sign that your body is working harder than it should to fight an infection. If you have COPD, the most likely source of an infection is in your lungs.
A lung infection is the most common cause of an acute exacerbation of COPD. In response to an impurity, the lungs make more sputum (or mucus) than normal in an effort to clear out the impurity. However, because of damaged airways, the lungs cannot handle this excess sputum and it becomes trapped in our lungs, setting up its own factory for bacterial or viral growth.
Therefore, you need to treat the infection in order to slow down the production of sputum. Sputum production is a highly variable symptom of COPD. Be on the look out for a change in color, thickness, odor or amount of sputum.
If you take regular medications and notice you have increased the use of rescue inhalers, this is a sign that you are more short of breath than normal with your regular activity. This is o?en caused by an increased swelling in your lungs. Rescue bronchodilators relax the muscles wrapping around your breathing tubes, but they do not relieve the swelling. A different class of medicationsanti-inflammatory agents or corticosteroidsare used for this. You may be taking a controller medicine that contains steroids. However, you may require more steroids to get over this exacerbation.
Fatigue that lasts more than one day is an early warning sign that your body is working harder than normal because of an infection or other problem. Know what is normal for you, and if you cant keep up with your usual routine, check if you have any of these other warning signs and notify your doctor.
Ankle swelling may be an early warning sign that you are retaining extra fluid because your heart is not working well enough to remove this fluid from the tissues. If this goes untreated, it may lead to fluid retention in the lungs. People with COPD o?en ignore this sign of congestive heart failure (CHF) that causes pulmonary edema; although it may not cause shortness of breath at first it can build quickly, and become very serious. Act fast and report ankle swelling to your doctor as soon as you notice a problem.
The following dangerous warning signs of an exacerbation are very serious and require immediate medical attention. As a person with COPD, you may not be aware of these serious signs and symptoms because they are so severe that your judgment may be affected. Caregivers should be trained to recognize these dangerous signs and call 911: