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Flare up medicines

These medicines are used when your symptoms start to worsen and you are experiencing a flare up. These medicines should be taken as detailed in your COPD Action Plan and will help you to reduce the severity of your flare up.

  • Antibiotics are used to treat flare ups when sputum colour, volume and texture change.
  • The antibiotics chosen will depend on your allergy status and cause of infection.
  • Follow the instructions when taking antibiotics. You may need to take the antibiotic on an empty stomach or with food.
  • You must complete the full course.

Prednisone (eg. Sone®, Panafcort®)

Prednisolone (Solone®, Panafcortelone®)


Short term:

  • To manage a flare up of signs and symptoms.
  • Use minimal doses for the shortest duration.
  • If it is prescribed as a daily dose take it in the morning with food.
  • If you have been taking this treatment for more than two weeks, do not stop treatment unless advised by your doctor as patients on longer courses of oral steroid tablets may need to be weaned slowly, with successively lower doses of drug, over time.
  • If you have been taking the oral steroid for two weeks or less, you do not need to taper the medicine.

Long term:

  • Use when inhaled corticosteroid on its own is not enough to prevent a flare up.


Reduces the inflammation in the breathing tubes or airways.

Side effects

Difficulty in sleeping, weight gain, bruising easily, osteoporosis, muscle wasting, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), mood disturbance and glaucoma. The risk of side effects increase with long term use.


Bromhexine (Bisolvon®)


  • Drinking enough water is essential before starting treatment.
  • Available in tablet or liquid form.


Reduces the stickiness of sputum.

Side effects

Nausea, diarrhoea and bronchospasm (tightening of breathing tubes or airways).


  • A yearly influenza (flu) immunisation has been shown to reduce risk of death and hospital admissions.
  • Immunisation against pneumonia (PneumoVax® 23) is recommended for those at high risk of serious pneumococcal disease, such as those with COPD. This should be given no more than five yearly. After two immunisations (over 5 years apart), discuss with your doctor whether further immunisations should be given.