Recognising the early signs of COPD flare-up

Morgan Liotta

6/06/2019 2:08:50 PM

A new campaign aims to raise awareness of COPD flare-up during the winter months, in an effort to help prevent further damage to the lungs.

COPD is in the top five leading causes of death in Australia.

Coughs, colds, chest infections, flu. Winter tends to bring with it a host of unwanted symptoms.
Those living with lung conditions or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are particularly susceptible, with COPD flare-ups exacerbated during the colder months.
COPD is the most common cause of potentially preventable hospitalisations. One in seven Australians over the age of 40 currently experience some form of COPD, but half of these people have not had a formal diagnosis.
COPD is the fifth most common underlying cause of death in Australia after heart disease, dementia, stroke and cancer.
The Lung Foundation Australia’s Come Prepared campaign aims to encourage healthcare professionals and people living with COPD to plan for winter and prevent flare-up by developing action plans.
Promotional packs, including posters to display in general practices and pharmacies, and social media tiles are available for healthcare organisations to assist in implementation of the action plans.
Key symptoms of COPD flare-up include:

  • coughing more than usual
  • finding it harder to breathe than usual
  • any change in sputum
  • feeling more tired or less active than usual.
Practitioners are encouraged to raise patient awareness of the common symptoms of COPD, considering many people tend to put the symptoms down to getting older or being unfit, according to the Lung Foundation.
Discussing symptoms with patients and their families is recommended as part of the campaign, as is using a lung health checklist designed to assess early signs of COPD.
Early diagnosis of COPD is critical to improving health outcomes and, if left untreated, each COPD flare-up can result in hospitalisation and further long-term damage to the lungs, and increase the risk of death.
Dr Kerry Hancock, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Respiratory Medicine network, agrees that being aware of the symptoms and having action plans in place will help reduce risk of COPD flare-ups during winter.
‘Winter is coming, and our patients with lung disease are at higher risk of deteriorating or becoming more symptomatic. So it’s about putting in place strategies to reduce risk for patients,’ she previously told newsGP.
‘We find that COPD patients can get complacent about their increasing symptoms ... They can deteriorate relatively quickly, so they do need to take action and monitor themselves.
‘A delay of 24 hours or more in seeking treatment for an exacerbation doubles the chance of hospital admission.
‘It’s much better if we can manage their exacerbation earlier, to prevent hospital admissions, or even deaths.’

chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD lung disease Lung Foundation

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Dr Arshad Merchant   7/06/2019 7:20:52 AM

COPD is a primary care condition & majority of GPS knows how to manage this. It is the secondary care ie hospitals, EDs, nurse practitioner ie practitioner trained to follow guidelines are muffing the water. All my high risk patients have rescue packs at home to use with exacerbations so they only go to hospital when they need oxygen or BiPAP treatment