COPD Awareness Month: spotting the signs could prevent an emergency


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — November is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Awareness Month, and recognizing when the symptoms of this common chronic condition become an emergency can save a life, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

“COPD is one of the most common chronic conditions that emergency physicians see in patients who come to the emergency department,” said Gillian Schmitz, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “It is important for people who live with COPD and their caregivers to be able to identify the signs of a COPD-related emergency and know when to go to the emergency department.”

COPD is a group of long-term inflammatory lung conditions that make it hard to breathe and typically include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of COPD, but this illness can develop after extended exposure to chemicals, dust, or other lung irritants, and in some cases it can be genetic.

Prompt attention to changes in typical symptoms can help prevent an emergency. Call 911 or go to the closest emergency department for:

  • Difficulty breathing or talking
  • Chest pains
  • Fever
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Fingernails that turn blue or gray (a sign of a low oxygen level in your blood)
  • Recommended treatment is not working, or symptoms are getting worse
  • Slurred speech, disorientation, confusion, dizziness
  • Sleepiness and difficulty arousing

Those with COPD should work with their physician to create a disease management plan that includes an emergency action plan with medication history, important phone numbers, and other information that can be critical to gather before an emergency occurs. Chronic illness like COPD can increase the risk of respiratory illness and severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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