Looking after your COPD (Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease)

COPD (Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease) includes chronic bronchitis (inflammation in the lungs) and emphysema (damage to the air sacs in the lungs) and affects middle aged and older people and is usually associated with smoking, though there can be other causes.

Often you don’t recognise the symptoms until it has progressed quite far, causing shortness of breath or wheezing and a frequent or persistent cough with phlegm and ‘chest infections’. Eventually it may restrict activities and some people end up needing oxygen in their house or to carry around.

There is a lot you can do to improve things or at least slow its progression.

It must be diagnosed promptly, so if you are over 35 and are a smoker or ex-smoker have symptoms, please come and see us -we’ll arrange a chest XR and lung function test (spirometry)


  • You MUST stop smoking or your condition will get worse.
  • There are inhalers and tablets that can help.
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation is useful to improve breathing and ability to get around and live an active life.
  • Surgery including lung transplant can sometimes be performed in extreme cases.
  • We will offer you ‘rescue packs’ of antibiotics and steroids for flare-ups.
  • Oxygen may be needed at home or to carry around.
  • There are some very specialised new types of treatment which show promise in some situations such as Steam Vapour Ablation for some suitable patients with emphysema.

More on treatment of COPD


  • Please stop smoking (well worth repeating!)
  • Take your inhalers as prescribed – they are often complex to sue properly and all do different things so get to love them and use them correctly.
  • Exercise regularly, even if you get a bit puffed, it will do you good and no harm.
  • Keep a healthy weight – being overweight will increase your breathlessness.
  • Come for your annual flu jab and a one-off pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Check the weather – the Met Office releases regular cold weather alerts. Bad weather may lead to flare-ups
  • Watch the air quality – keep away from fumes, check the air pollution forecasts and watch for indoor pollution at home and at work too.
  • Make sure you come to your annual (or more often) monitoring checks at the surgery and see us early if your think your are starting a flare-up or things are getting worse.
  • Breathing control techniques can help. There are some more specialised physiotherapy breathing leaflets here. Activities such as yoga can be beneficial.
  • Take up singing – yes, on your own or in a group, it’s an excellent excuse to improve your breath control and lung function!

Going on holiday? – take your lungs with you but be prepared (advice on insurance, flying and travelling with oxygen)

If you cannot work, check your benefit entitlements

And if things are really getting bad you might want to consider plan ahead and think of decisions such granting power of attorney, advance directives and have conversations about end of life care Planning for end of life.


myCOPD is a web and App based educational and monitoring tool available for patients in NW London (though there are limited licenses) allowing a better degree of self-care. Perfect your inhaler technique, watch educational videos, do pulmonary rehab online,.

British Lung Foundation

A useful resource with practical tips on self-management, stories and videos from other sufferers. Make your own COPD passport and Helpline Tel: 03000 030 555

Also BreathEasy local support groups (in Burnt Oak, Central Middlesex Hospital, Maia Vale) – for activities, breath control, singing – a great way to improve lung function!)