Each year, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) accounts for the greatest number of preventable hospitalisations. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever it is important to keep well and out of hospital.
For people living with COPD, it’s common to experience an exacerbation, or flare-up, of your symptoms, particularly during the winter months when there are lots of viruses and other bugs floating around.
Symptoms of a flare-up include coughing more than usual, finding it more difficult to breathe, any change in sputum, and feeling more tired and less active than you normally do. Contracting the common cold or influenza can put you at risk of a flare-up and each one does further damage to the lungs.
Jo Lockyer has been living with COPD for a decade and says having an action plan in place helps her to know that even on the hard days, she has the tools to help herself.
“It might seem a bit silly, but having a plan written down that very clearly tells me what to do when I’m struggling is really important. It’s very hard not to panic when you’re getting desperate and you just can’t get that air into your lungs,” Jo said.
“I keep my action plan on the fridge to remind me that it’s going to be okay if I follow these steps.”
Jo says an action plan is not only important for the person living with COPD, it can also provide great comfort for your loved ones.
“For people around you, when they see you struggling like that, they can panic too. They’ll want to help so if it’s clearly written down for everybody, we can help each other get through it.”
Lung Foundation Australia Respiratory Care Nurse, Amanda Curran says while planning ahead and having an action plan in place might not prevent you from becoming unwell this winter, it will help reduce the risk of a flareup by guiding you to recognise the signs early.
“A delay of 24 hours or more in seeking treatment for an exacerbation doubles the chance of hospital admission, that’s why understanding the early signs is really important,” Amanda said.
“An action plan is an important tool to help you recognise when your symptoms are worsening and provides clear written instructions on what action you should take to help manage your condition.”
Amanda says it’s important that you complete an action plan with your GP and review it each year. Following the plan can help you to live better and be well prepared for winter.
“If you don’t have an action plan in place, we encourage you to make an appointment with your GP via telehealth services. As your condition changes and progresses, your treatment or medications may change too, so it’s important that your plan is updated with your GP regularly.”
Useful resources and more information
Plan ahead and come prepared to stay well this winter. To download our free action plan template and find out more about living well with COPD, visit lungfoundation.com.au/plan or call 1800 654 301.