More than 32 million Americans are living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)--a chronic condition that has no known cure. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help you breathe easier. In addition, follow these tips to help manage your COPD symptoms and reduce the risk of flare-ups.

  • Kick the habit.

    Although lung damage from COPD is permanent, quitting smoking can help reduce the rate of decline in lung capacity and improve your quality of life. If you haven't already kicked the habit, be sure to talk to your doctor about smoking-cessation treatments.
  • Avoid outdoor triggers.

    There are several triggers outside the home that can cause COPD flare-ups. To prevent your symptoms from getting worse, avoid air pollution and smog; traffic fumes and exhaust from cars; occupational exposure to chemical fumes; sudden changes in weather; cold, dry air, or hot, humid air; strong winds; high altitudes; and pollens or mold.
  • Avoid indoor triggers.

    COPD triggers may also be lurking in your home. Some of the most common culprits include smoke from cigarettes, fireplaces, and wood stoves; scented beauty products; fumes from cleaning products, paints, and solvents; pet hair, dander, and saliva; and dust, dust mites, and mildew.
  • Monitor your symptoms.

    Many experts recommend that COPD sufferers keep a diary so that they can chart their symptoms, monitor their triggers, and pinpoint complications. Not only will it enable you to identify patterns in your COPD; it can also help enhance communication between you and your doctor.
  • Eat right.

    A healthy diet can't cure COPD, but it may help you feel better. In general, COPD patients should maintain a balanced diet and limit their intake of salt, caffeine, and foods that can lead to bloating. In addition, eating six small meals a day, rather than a few large ones, may help you to maintain energy throughout the day.
  • Be active.

    A diagnosis of COPD doesn't mean you can't be physically active. That said, it's important to talk to your doctor about the kinds of exercises you should do, as well as any precautions or limitations you may have.
  • Get your z's.

    While COPD can make it difficult to get a good night's sleep, it's important for patients to get their rest. If you're having trouble sleeping, try to limit your caffeine intake, avoid napping, and keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Get a flu shot.

    Influenza can cause serious complications in COPD sufferers, so talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot. The pneumococcal vaccine may also be helpful in preventing pneumonia.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often.

    One of the best ways to prevent colds and flu is to wash your hands frequently. Remember to cleanse with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds each time. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which don't require water, are another good method of killing germs.

Getting Help

Be sure to contact your doctor immediately if your wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath suddenly gets worse, or if you have a fever, trouble sleeping, extreme fatigue, depression, and/or confusion. If your symptoms are severe, you may need immediate medical assistance.