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Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease

Chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD)

Learn about symptoms and treatment of chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD).

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Last updated: January 2024

Understanding COPD

Chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD) is a chronic condition that damages the lungs, getting worse over time. The disease can cause persistent coughing, infections, fatigue and shortness of breath. The leading cause of COPD is smoking, however non-smokers exposed to noxious particles or gases may also get COPD.

Symptoms of COPD include:

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea), especially during physical activities
  • Chronic cough or wheezing
  • Bringing up mucous with cough

For more information on COPD, visit COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

Managing COPD

There are treatments to help you with COPD. You may be already taking medications. Visit COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) to learn more about managing the disease. These topics also explain how specific therapies for COPD work:

COPD flare-up action plan

Patients with COPD can experience aggravations or flare-ups that can be serious and life-threatening. Knowing the symptoms and being prepared for flare-ups is important in managing your health.

Having a flare-up action plan is crucial for managing COPD. It can help you and your health care provider identify COPD triggers so you can make the necessary lifestyle and environmental changes.

Consider keeping the updated COPD Flare-Up Action Plan on hand.

Symptoms of a flare-up may include:

  • A rapid increase in cough
  • Increased mucous, especially if it is yellow or green
  • Increased shortness of breath

For information on COPD flare-ups and how to manage them, visit:


People with COPD are at higher risk of severe problems from certain vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines can reduce the risk of these preventable diseases.

For more information about vaccines, visit:

Living with COPD

Some lifestyle and environmental factors can impact your physical health and may worsen your COPD. Learn about lifestyle adjustments that can make living with COPD easier.


Smoking is the primary cause of COPD. The best way to slow down the severity of COPD is to quit or reduce smoking to help you improve your quality of life.

QuitNow provides one-on-one support and resources in multiple languages to help your strategy to quit. For more information, visit their Find Support page

BC Smoking Cessation Program helps cover the cost of nicotine replacement therapy products and specific smoking cessation prescription drugs. For more information about the program, visit the BC Smoking Cessation Program

Physical activity

Being physically active when you have COPD can help you breathe easier and feel better. Benefits of regular activity include reduced shortness of breath and risk of flare-ups as well as improved physical fitness and quality of life. To learn more about being active with COPD, visit:

Learn more about being active when you have COPD. Physical Activity Services at HealthLinkBC can provide support. To talk to a qualified exercise professional, call 8-1-1 (or 7-1-1 for the deaf and hard of hearing) toll-free in B.C. between 9 am and 5 pm Pacific Time, Monday to Friday.

Healthy eating

With COPD, you may have lower energy levels or feel less hungry than you used to. You may feel too tired to make or eat food. Eating healthy can help you to meet your energy and nutrient needs, feel your best and stay strong. For more information, visit:

Learn more about eating well when you have COPD. Dietitian services at HealthLinkBC can provide support. To talk to a registered dietitian professional, call 8-1-1 (or 7-1-1 for the deaf and hard of hearing) toll-free in B.C. between 9 am and 5 pm Pacific Time, Monday to Friday.


Poor air quality can cause COPD or make symptoms worse. Breathing chemical fumes, dust, second-hand smoke or air pollution over a prolonged time may also damage the lungs. For more information, visit:

Advance care planning

Advance care planning is recommended for all patients with a diagnosis of COPD. Write down your wishes or instructions for present or future health care treatment in case you become unable to decide. For information and tools for starting a plan, visit Planning for advanced care.

Useful websites

BC Lung Foundation

A non-profit and volunteer-based health organization, which offers information on COPD programs and educational resources. You can speak to a certified respiratory educator for answers to questions on lung diseases and related matters. Call the BC Lung Foundation on 1-800-665-5864 or visit their website.

The Canadian Lung Association

The Association provides information on treatment, medication and more for people with COPD. Their lung health search tool can help with finding services for managing COPD or help with quitting smoking. For more information, visit:

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