Coping with 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 or two 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:

  • clear your chest 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
  • You may need to start your pack of antibiotics if you keep a pack at home. Get in touch with your GP or health care team for advice.

Next: Self-management >

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Last medically reviewed: March 2017. Due for review: March 2020

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.