What should I do if I have COPD?
If you live with COPD, you are at a higher risk of severe complications if you get COVID-19. It’s important you follow social distancing advice particularly carefully and continue to self-manage your condition well.
Most people with severe COPD have got a shielding letter advising them to follow social shielding advice. Others may get a letter following reviews by hospital specialists and GPs.
Make sure you are managing your COPD well.
This means following your self-management plan if you have one.
Take your usual medication and inhalers as prescribed.
The best defence against complications of COVID-19 is for your lung condition to be as well controlled as possible. Carry on taking your inhaled medications and any tablets and continue to use your nebuliser if you have already been given one, and prescribed medication to use in it, by your health care professional. This should help you to have the best possible lung function and the least risk of getting an acute exacerbation or flare-up.
Despite anything you may have seen elsewhere, there is no evidence that steroid inhalers make people more susceptible to COVID-19. If you are on regular steroid tablets you should keep taking them as prescribed. They are helping to control the inflammation in the lungs that can cause a flare-up of your symptoms.
If you are on a high dose of steroid you should be given a steroid card from your GP. This is a card that lets health care professionals know you take steroids at a high dose.
For inhaled steroids a high dose is defined as more than 1000 micrograms of beclomethasone or equivalent. Most people, even if they are on inhaled steroids, do not require such a high dose. Ask your health care professional if you are unsure.
Make sure you always carry your steroid card with you. If you lose it, you can get a replacement from your pharmacy or GP. It is useful in emergency situations, as your body may not produce enough natural steroids to help you deal with illness or injury. In this situation, doctors will need to give you extra steroids when treating you.
If you use long-term oxygen therapy, do not adjust the oxygen flow rate, unless your health care professional tells you to.
Your health care professional will not be able to give you more than a month’s supply of your medication during these times.
If you haven’t done so already, register with your GP practice for online services including prescriptions.
Make sure you are using your inhalers correctly.
These inhaler technique videos show you how. Do not share your inhalers with anyone else.
Keep using your breathing techniques to help bring up sputum.
If you use breathing techniques to help bring up sputum, continue to use them. Make sure you do this in a well-ventilated room, and away from other members of your household. Ask them to wait for a few minutes before joining you in that room. This is to avoid them breathing in any droplets in the air from your breaths out.
Keep hand-washing and cleaning your equipment.
It remains essential to wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
You should also clean things like face masks, mouth pieces, spacers, nebulisers and peak flow meters regularly with washing-up liquid and following the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not share any equipment with anyone else.
If you use non-invasive ventilation, use it in a room that’s well ventilated and away from other members of your household.
Get help if you are feeling anxious and depressed.
Talk to your health care professional on the phone or by video if you’re feeling anxious or depressed. You can also take a look at our advice on dealing with your mental wellbeing if you have a lung condition and the Mental Health Foundation’s advice about coping at this time.
If you smoke, stopping smoking now will reduce your risk from getting very unwell if you get coronavirus. It will also reduce the risk of flare-ups, also called acute exacerbations, of your symptoms. Get support to stop smoking from your health care professional or get in touch directly with NHS stop smoking services, who can help you by phone, video or email.
Continuing with your usual exercises, including pulmonary rehabilitation.
There are resources online to help you. You can watch our exercise videos or download our exercise handbook to exercise safely at home. Or you could use this pulmonary rehabilitation pack that includes exercise and education.
Do I have to wear a face covering?
For the most up to date advice on face masks, including who should be wearing them and where, take a look at our page on face coverings.
If you have a flare-up
If you get the usual signs and symptoms of a flare-up: increased breathlessness, you produce more sputum and there’s a change in its colour and consistency, and you cough more, follow your flare-up plan, including taking antibiotics and steroids if you have them at home.
If you have a fever or a new continuous cough or a loss or changed sense of normal small or taste, contact the NHS 111 online coronavirus service. Do this as soon as you have these symptoms. In an emergency, call 999 if you are seriously ill.
If you have symptoms such as a high fever, dry cough or muscle pain, as they are less typical of a flare-up and may be symptoms of coronavirus, you should self-isolate. Don’t take your rescue pack if you only have these symptoms.
Take a moment to think ahead
If you feel you can, you might want to discuss with those closest to you, and your health care professional, any wishes you have for your future care. This is called advance care planning. Things that are important to you are more likely to happen if you can share your wishes in advance.
- Read why Dr Noel Baxter, a GP, suggests you should think about talking to your family in the current situation
Contacting your health care professional
It’s likely your GP practice and hospital specialist have changed the way they can work and consult you. You might get texts or emails from them, get electronic prescriptions and be offered telephone or video calls instead of face-to-face appointments. For example, for your annual review. Lung functioning testing and assessments for treatments such as oxygen therapy may be postponed due to the current priorities.
Find out more about how technology can help you manage your health care in our guide.
What you can read next:
- What is coronavirus?
- What if I get symptoms of coronavirus?
- What should people with a lung condition do now?
- How can I cope with staying at home?
- What is social shielding?
- What’s the difference between self-isolation, social distancing and social shielding?
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