World COPD Day: Tips to manage a lung attack

ByParmita Uniyal
Nov 16, 2021 07:01 PM IST

People diagnosed with Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often find themselves having a tough time to breath. Here's how to manage a flare-up of symptoms or lung attack.

Lung attacks or lung exacerbations are experienced by about a third of those suffering from Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). People diagnosed with this chronic disease often find themselves having a tough time to breath.

World COPD Day is annually observed on November 17(Pixabay)
World COPD Day is annually observed on November 17(Pixabay)

COPD is a disease that obstructs air flows from the lungs, hampering one's ability to carry out daily chores with ease. A number of processes cause the airways to become narrow. There may be destruction of parts of the lung, mucus blocking the airways, and inflammation and swelling of the airway lining, as per WHO (World Health Organization)

Dr S K Jindal, Director, Jindal Clinics and former Professor & Head, Pulmonary Medicine, at Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research tells us more about the disease, symptoms of a lung attack and stages of COPD on the occasion of World COPD Day (November 17).

ALSO READ: Smoking can give you this fatal disease. Know all about Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

How to diagnose a lung attack or a COPD episode

A person suffering from COPD may experience severe breathlessness, increased coughing, chest congestion, sudden heart palpitations, wheezing and a feeling of desaturation in the body. "Many a times doctors may also diagnose the attack by looking for symptoms like cardiac arrhythmia, pneumonia and viral infection in the upper respiratory tract that may also be prevalent in COPD patients and can be life threatening in nature," says Dr Jindal.

Stages of COPD

People diagnosed with mild and moderate COPD can often carry out daily activities with difficulties like breathlessness and cough. While those suffering from severe and very severe stages of the same often are bed ridden due to increased breathlessness. It affects their quality of life and restricts their movement. People with severe stages of COPD have difficulty in having food, going to the restroom and carrying out other daily tasks. Severe COPD patients can experience total respiratory failure or loss of breath.

COPD is usually classified into four main stages namely: mild, moderate, severe and very severe.

"A special exercise to strengthen the muscles used for breathing can help in dealing with the disease. However, in severe cases, a lung transplant or surgery may be recommended to help improve lung function. Most important, avoid self-medication and only take medicines prescribed by the doctor. Also, take inhalers regularly as prescribed by the doctor," says Dr Jindal.


Treatments are generally carried out based on the severity of the diseases and the number of excavations that have occurred due to various complications, says Dr Jindal.

The treatments primarily consist of inhalation using proper dilators; drugs such as Albuterol and Ipratropium are also used. Severe cases may require nebulisation drugs with oral bronchodilators and other antibiotics.

"Oral steroids are also given if the patient has more excavations and is suffering from C or D type of COPD. These are mainly given to clear acute flare ups in the airway after which basic treatments like respiratory rehabilitation, different respiratory exercises and nutrition intake are followed by," says the doctor.

Management of lung attack

COPD is not a reversible disease and is a chronic disease that deteriorates lung function progressively over time. Though it can easily be treated in the early stages through inhalation therapy and respiratory rehabilitation methods that can improve the overall condition of your health and thus reduce the severity of symptoms.

Lifestyle changes

"The best way to prevent COPD is to never start smoking, and if you smoke, quit. Also, stay away from second-hand smoke, which is smoke from burning tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, or pipes as smoking and air pollution are the biggest contributors to COPD," says Dr Jindal.

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