Managing bronchiectasis flare-ups

Learning to recognise what symptoms are normal for you is a useful way to manage and monitor your health. Being able to spot a change in your lung health early means you can get treatment sooner to prevent a severe flare-up.

For some people, signs of a flare-up are a change in the colour of their sputum, an increase in the amount, or it becoming more sticky. For others, it can be feeling very tired, feeling feverish, a worsening cough or chest pain.

The signs to look out for are when, for more than 48 hours (2 days), you:

  • feel unwell
  • cough up more sputum
  • have a change in the colour of your sputum
  • are more breathless

Agree a plan with your doctor about what to do. You may be given antibiotics to keep at home.

When you spot signs of a flare-up:

  • Do your airway clearance exercises more often – at least twice daily.
  • Take your regular medication as usual.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Collect a sputum sample and give it to you GP or hospital as soon as you can. If you can’t hand it in that day, store the sample in your fridge overnight.
  • Contact your GP or healthcare team for advice – you may need to start antibiotics.
  • Sometimes, if you are confident you know when you need to start antibiotics, your GP may issue an emergency pack of antibiotics for you to keep at home. This is in case you need to start antibiotics at a time when you’re unable to contact your doctor, for example when you’re on holiday or at a weekend.
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Download our bronchiectasis PDF (108 KB)

Last medically reviewed: March 2020. Due for review: March 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.