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COPD - what to ask your doctor


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) damages your lungs. This can make it hard for you to get enough oxygen and clear carbon dioxide from your lungs. While there is no cure for COPD, you can do many things to control your symptoms and make your life better.

Below are some questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your lungs.

Alternate Names

What to ask your doctor about COPD; Emphysema - what to ask your doctor; Chronic bronchitis - what to ask your doctor; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - what to ask your doctor


What will make my COPD worse?

  • How can I prevent things that can make my COPD worse?
  • How can I prevent getting a lung infection?
  • How can I get help quitting smoking?
  • Will fumes, dust, or having pets make my COPD worse?

What are some signs that my breathing is getting worse and I should call the doctor? What should I do when I feel I am not breathing well enough?

Am I taking my COPD medicines the right way?

  • What medicines should I be taking every day (called controller drugs)? What should I do if I miss a day?
  • Which medicines should I take when I am short of breath (called rescue drugs)? Is it ok to use these drugs every day?
  • What are the side effects of my medicines? For what side effects should I call the doctor?
  • How will I know when my inhalers are getting empty? Am I using my inhaler the right way? Should I be using a spacer?

What shots or vaccinations do I need?

Are there changes in my diet that will help my COPD?

What do I need to do when I am planning to travel?

  • Will I need oxygen on the airplane? How about at the airport?
  • What medicines should I bring?
  • How do I get prescription refills?
  • Who should I call if I get worse?

What are some exercises I can do to keep my muscles strong, even if I cannot walk around very much?

How can I save some of my energy around the house?

Should I consider pulmonary rehabilitation?


Anderson B, Conner K, Dunn C, et al. Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. Diagnosis and Management of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). 9th ed. Updated March 2013. Available at: Accessed 11/29/14.

Balkissoon R, Lommatzsch S, Carolan B, Make B. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a concise review. Med Clin N. Am. 2011;95:1125-1141. PMID 22032431

Review Date: 11/29/2014
Reviewed By: Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, MHS, Paul F. Harron Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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