What is a COPD flare-up?

COPD flare-ups (also called COPD exacerbations) are times when your symptoms get noticeably worse or when new symptoms appear.

Flare-ups may be brought on by a chest infection from a cold or the flu, or they may be triggered by air pollution or allergies.

It's important to tell your doctor about any flare-up, chest infection, or attack of breathlessness you experience.

What are the warning signs of a COPD flare-up (COPD exacerbation)?

You need to know the signs of a COPD flare-up and treat them seriously. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of COPD flare-ups will empower you to respond to them.

Warning signs of a COPD flare-up include:

  • a change in the colour or thickness of your mucus
  • more coughing
  • fatigue and feeling sick
  • fever or symptoms of a cold (such as runny nose, sore throat, or headache)
  • more mucus
  • more shortness of breath

5 warning signs of a severe COPD flare-up

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you have any one of these symptoms:

  • blue lips or fingers
  • chest pain
  • confused thinking or agitation
  • drowsiness during waking hours
  • extreme shortness of breath

What should I do if I have a COPD flare-up?

Because flare-ups are a serious medical condition, make sure to tell your doctor about any change in your condition.

  • Call your doctor if your symptoms are getting worse. Go to a hospital emergency department if you can't reach your doctor.
  • If you have any of the 5 warning signs of a severe flare-up, call 9-1-1 immediately.