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Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency

How can I stay healthy with alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency?

If you have alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, there are a number of things you can do to help keep yourself healthy.

If you’re a smoker, stop smoking

This is essential to slow down the development of COPD and improve symptoms. Stopping smoking is both prevention and treatment. You should be offered help to quit if needed. If not, ask for it.

Avoid being regularly exposed to irritants such as dust and gas

If you’re exposed to irritants, for example at work, this might cause COPD to develop faster.

Avoid getting chest infections and colds

If you have AATD, chest infections can cause your lungs to become damaged more quickly. If you have a cough that produces mucus or phlegm you should see your doctor as you probably have an infection. You may need a course of steroids and, if your phlegm is a different colour (green or yellow) or a thicker consistency than usual, you may also be given a course of antibiotics. Stay away from friends or family when they have chest infections or colds.

Get vaccinated

Get a flu jab every year. This will help you avoid chest infections. Ask your doctor about having a one-off vaccination against pneumonia.

Lead a healthy lifestyle

This will help you manage your symptoms. Make sure you eat a balanced diet, manage your weight and get regular exercise.

Keep an eye on your alcohol intake

There’s no need to avoid alcohol completely but it’s wise to keep to the safe drinking guidance – less than 14 units spread throughout a week. You might have blood tests and scans to keep an eye on your liver.

We have more information on lung conditions caused by alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. Read about COPD and bronchiectasis and find advice on coping with breathlessness.

If you have any more questions, our friendly helpline team are also there for a chat. Call 0300 222 5800.

Alpha-1 UK support groups

You can find support from these groups for people with alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, their families and carers:

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 03000 030 555 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

Download our AATD information (PDF, 163KB)

Last medically reviewed: August 2020. Due for review: August 2023

This information uses the best available medical evidence and was produced with the support of people living with lung conditions. Find out how we produce our information. If you’d like to see our references get in touch.