COPD treatment

If you have a COPD flare-up (sudden worsening of symptoms or when new symptoms appear), it's important to follow the instructions given by your doctor and seek treatment as soon as possible, before the flare-up gets worse. This can help reduce your risk of ending up in the hospital.

COPD flare-up treatment can involve:

  • increasing the doses of short-acting inhaled bronchodilators
  • starting antibiotics (if coughing up yellowish or greenish phlegm)
  • starting corticosteroid medications

Corticosteroid medications

These medications reduce inflammation in the lungs. Corticosteroids are used for a short period of time to reduce inflammation in the lungs during a moderate or severe COPD flare-up.


Many flare-ups are due to an infection. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections associated with COPD flare-ups. Your doctor may give you a prescription for an antibiotic to be used if you notice a COPD flare-up starting, caused by a bacterial infection. Finish the entire antibiotic course, even if you start to feel better.

To prevent flare-ups, see your doctor regularly for follow-ups and follow your treatment plan. If you have been given maintenance medication(s), it's important that you use them regularly as prescribed by your doctor, even when you are not experiencing symptoms. This will prevent your COPD from getting worse. Also, make sure your flu and pneumococcal vaccinations are up to date.