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6 tips for living well with COPD

Sarah shares her tips for managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).Pulmonary rehabilitation class

The last few weeks I've had both a cold and a chest infection. It’s meant I haven’t been able to go out for my usual run round the park, and I've really struggled to get some sleep…and so has my husband thanks to my coughing and fidgeting!

This might sound like a familiar situation for people living with a lung condition like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Over 3 million people in the UK live with COPD. Working as a health care professional I see the massive impact that the condition has on the lives of patients and their families. COPD affects people not just physically but mentally, emotionally and socially too. 

The BLF’s COPD patient passport is a great example of a practical tool to enable people with COPD to get the right support. If you are affected by COPD, here are some tips to help you manage your condition.

Be active

It’s important for everyone to stay active and control their weight, but especially if you’re living with COPD. NICE guidelines for COPD recommend that you get regular exercise in a pulmonary rehabilitation class which you can be referred to by your doctor.

Exercise can help you to manage your breathlessness, reduce flare-ups and it’s also a great chance to meet new people.

Talk to others

Having a long term condition like COPD can put a strain on any relationship. Difficulty breathing and coughing can make people with the condition feel very tired and depressed.

It is also inevitable that their spouse, partner or carer will feel anxious or even frustrated about their breathing problems. It is important to talk about your worries together. Being open about how you feel and what your family and friends can do to help may put them at ease. But do not feel shy about telling them that you need some time to yourself, if that is what you want.

With severe COPD, the increasing breathlessness can make it difficult to take part in activities. The breathlessness may occur during sexual activity, which may mean your sex life can suffer.

Communicate with your partner and stay open-minded. The BLF have really useful information about sex and breathlessness which has lots of great advice on this topic. Share your experiences and problems; there will always be someone that can help.  

You can post on the BLF’s web community or head along to a Breathe Easy support group if you prefer to talk to people with a similar condition.

Have your flu vaccine

If you have COPD, getting flu can cause lots of problems and trigger a serious flare-up of your condition. It’s so important that you get your annual flu jab, and encourage the people around you to get one too.

Take things slowly and plan ahead

Pacing yourself is essential. From the moment you wake up you should think about how to save your energy and reduce feelings of breathlessness. It’s important to get to know your body and the best ways for you to manage your condition.

Maybe a certain chest clearing technique works really well for you, or there are certain times of day that are better for some activities. This can mean you have to do lots of planning for each day, but your life might be easier in long run.

Regular reviews

As COPD is a long term condition, you should get regular help and advice from a health care professional (HCP). The BLF's COPD patient passport can help you have those conversations with your HCP as it looks at all the essential care you should receive.

Keep warm

Wrap up warm for WInterWinter brings cold weather which can trigger COPD symptoms, so make sure you stay nice and warm. If you’re going outside wrap up and try putting your scarf over your mouth, it will stop some of the cold air from irritating your lungs.

If possible try and go out at the warmest times of the day and avoid peak times. If you have any questions about your condition you can call the BLF Helpline on 03000 030 555, Monday to Friday, 9am - 5pm, where a team of qualified nurses are ready to help.

Have you tried our COPD patient passport? It can help people with COPD to discuss their condition with their doctor and to recognise parts of their care that could be improved. Help us to continue to provide life-changing tools like this one - donate to our COPD appeal.

Do you have a story to tell? It could be about your lung condition, a friend or relative you know who lives with one, or how caring for them impacts your life. We'd love to hear what you've got to say!

Share your story


Thanks for the great feedback Keith, we really appreciate it! Our helpline team are always about if you need any extra support, give them a call on 03000 030 555, Monday to Friday between 9am-5pm and they'll be happy to answer all your questions. All the best, Suzanne British Lung Foundation
i thick your site is brill and i wecome all your support, i have juct got over a chest infection and will be going back to portsmouth buckland
Very good six points, I would like to add another comment: In addition to pulmonary rehabilitation join a singing group , the exercises really help you to breathe much much better. I can hear people say 'I can't sing', you join not for the singing but for the exercises. Try it.
I belong to a small singing group run by our Breathe Easy club , It is really amazing after just a few sessions , we are all able to hold a note much longer , and keep going , when we used to have to take a breath halfway ! We always start with a relaxation tape , then a scales practice tape . IT WORKS . Would also like to add I have been on drug trials for the last 17 months for C O P D medication . Although have during that time , had three colds , they were nowhere near as severe as I'm used to , sometimes only lasting two weeks instead of months . All over feel a lot better , yes , still get breathless , but on the whole so , so much better !

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19 November 2014