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C.O.P.E.
COPD. Online. Patient. Education.

How can you monitor your symptoms and avoid having a flare up?

There are several possible triggers that can cause a flare up.  Some people are particularly susceptible to particular triggers. These can include:

  • Respiratory viral or bacterial infections, such as bronchitis, a cold or the flu.
  • Smoke. 
  • Pollutants such as dust, wood smoke or smog.
  • Other unknown causes account for about one third of all flare ups.


There are things you can do to avoid getting a flare up:

  • Follow your written COPD Action Plan that you developed with your doctor 
  • Ask if you don’t know how to use it
  • Learn what the triggers are that make your COPD worse and how to avoid them.
    • Stay inside on particularly cold or hot days if possible.
    • Avoid second hand smoke.
    • Avoid strong cleaning products or strong perfume.
  • Make sure you get the flu immunisation every autumn and that you are immunised to protect you from pneumonia.
  • Take your medicines regularly and as prescribed by your doctor and as indicated in your COPD Action Plan.
  • Avoid people with colds and flu.
  • Take good care of yourself by eating healthy foods, exercising and getting enough sleep.
  • Keep track of your daily symptoms so that you can recognise quickly when you are starting to become unwell (a sample symptom diary is provided below).
  • Maintain good hand hygiene, many germs are spread by hand contact so wash your hands regularly.


The following sample symptom diary captures information about your symptoms such as cough, sputum and shortness of breath.  Some people find a diary like this one helps them to recognise what is ‘normal’ and also help identify when their symptoms change.