Preventing Complications

If you have COPD, you can take these steps to prevent complications and control the disabling effects of the disease.

  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid exposure to pollutants and lung irritants.
  • Take precautions against the flu.
  • Talk to your doctor about the flu and pneumonia vaccines.
  • See your doctor on a regular basis.
  • Follow your treatments for COPD exactly as your doctor prescribes.

Quit Smoking

If you smoke, the most important thing you can do to prevent more lung damage is to stop smoking. Quitting can help prevent complications and slow the progress of the disease. It is also important to stay away from people who smoke and places where you know there will be smokers.

To help you quit, there are many online resources and several new aids available from your doctor or health care provider. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has information on smoking cessation. Visit , or check out NCI's Clear Horizons, a quit smoking guide for people 50+. You can also visit The American Lung Association, or call 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Avoid Exposure to Pollutants and Lung Irritants

Try to stay away from other things that could irritate your lungs, like dust and strong fumes. Stay indoors when the outside air quality is poor. You should also stay away from places where there might be cigarette smoke.

Take Precautions Against the Flu

The flu (influenza) can cause serious problems for people who have COPD. Do your best to avoid crowds during flu season. In addition to avoiding people with the flu, remembering to wash and sanitize your hands can be one of the best ways to guard against getting sick.

Talk to Your Doctor About the Flu (influenza) and Pneumonia Vaccines

Talk with your doctor about getting a yearly flu shot and whether and when you should get the pneumonia vaccine. Flu shots can reduce your risk of getting the flu, and the pneumonia vaccine lowers your risk for pneumococcal pneumonia (NU-mo-KOK-al nu-MO-ne-ah) and its complications. Both of these illnesses are major health risks for people who have COPD.

See Your Doctor Regularly

See your doctor or health care provider regularly even if you are feeling fine. Make a list of your breathing symptoms and think about any activities that you can no longer do because of shortness of breath. Be sure to bring a list of all the medicines you are taking to each office visit.

Follow Your Treatments

Follow your treatments for COPD exactly as your doctor prescribes. They can help you breathe easier, stay more active, and avoid or manage severe symptoms.