COPD flare-ups


This winter, come prepared

During the winter months there are lots of people around who are unwell with a cold or flu. This can be a dangerous time for someone who has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and catching these viruses can have significant consequences and puts them at risk of a flare-up.

COPD is the most common cause of potentially preventable hospitalisations. Preventing a flare-up is important because an untreated flare-up can mean hospitalisation, and each flare-up does further damage to the lungs.

Knowing what the early signs of a flare-up are is also key because the sooner someone with COPD gets treatment, the quicker and better their recovery is likely to be. 

Don’t assume, plan. Know what you need to do to prevent COPD flare-ups this winter.

Know the signs of a flare-up

Each COPD flare-up does long-term damage to your health and can increase your risk of death. It’s vital to be prepared this winter. Reduce your risk and recognise the symptoms of a flare-up:

  • Coughing more than usual.
  • Finding it harder to breathe than usual.
  • Any change in sputum (phlegm).
  • Feeling more tired and less active than usual.

If you have any of the above symptoms, Act now. Your COPD Action Plan will tell you what you need to do during a flare-up. This may include taking extra flare-up medications or visiting your doctor for review of your symptoms. 

Don’t assume, plan

A delay of 24 hours or more in seeking treatment for an exacerbation doubles the chance of hospital admission.

Our COPD Action Plan helps people living with COPD to understand their baseline or day-to-day symptoms and current medicines, how to recognise when their symptoms change or worsen and what action they need to take. 

Download the action plan, here

For patients

Tips to make the most of your doctor’s appointment:

  • Make appointments with the same doctor, except in an urgent situation and when your normal doctor is unavailable.
  • List questions and concerns about your COPD in order of priority before your visit.
  • Ask for a longer appointment or schedule a second visit if you have lots of questions or concerns.
  • Don’t avoid asking questions because you are embarrassed. Your doctor is there to help.
  • Take a friend or family member for support.
  • Ask your doctor to write answers down so you can review them later.
  • Find out from your doctor when you should make your next appointment and ask what to do if your symptoms worsen or if you’re not getting better.


Lung Foundation Australia has evidence-based resources to help you talk with yout doctor about COPD flare-ups so you can recognise and manage any worsening symptoms and avoid hospitalisation.

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For health professionals

You can help prevent COPD exacerbations in your patients this winter by:

  • Recalling your patients with COPD
  • Checking for COPD flare-up symptoms
  • Scheduling their vaccinations (influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia)
  • Reviewing their COPD medicines (see Stepwise Management of Stable COPD below)
  • Reviewing their inhaler device technique
  • Developing their COPD Action Plan
  • Referring to them to pulmonary rehabilitation exercise maintenance classes.


Lung Foundation Australia has evidence-based resources to support you in preventing COPD flare-ups in your patients this winter. 

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Don’t assume this winter, plan ahead. Prepare or update your COPD Action Plan today.

This program is supported by AstraZeneca.