COPD: Take a Hand in Your Health

When it comes to managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), your health care provider works hard to develop a treatment plan that helps control your symptoms. Your input on this plan can make it easier to care for your health. That is why it is important to talk with your health care provider when you have questions about your symptoms, treatment, medications, exercise, or diet. By preparing questions ahead of time, you can get the most out of every doctor's visit.

What to ask

Every individual's need for information is different. Your concerns might vary from visit to visit. To remember what you want to ask your health care provider, write down your questions in advance, and take notes on the answers. You might want to bring along a family member or friend who can help you remember all the information you receive. A tape recorder is another option, but always ask your health care provider for permission before taping. Here are some examples of common questions to ask:

Your symptoms

  • How can I manage my symptoms?

  • What should I do if my symptoms get worse?

  • When should I call your office, and what number should I use?

  • When should I call 911 or go to the emergency room?

Your treatment

  • What are the expected benefits of my treatment, and how long will it take to notice them?

  • Are there other safe and effective treatments? What are the risks and benefits of each option? 

  • What side effects might develop from my treatment, and what should I do if they occur?

  • When and how should I use pursed-lip breathing?

  • Do I need to use supplemental oxygen, and if so, when and at what flow rate?

 Your medicine

  • How much medicine should I take, and when?

  • How do you spell the name of my medicine? 

  • What should I do if I accidentally skip a dose or accidentally take too much?

  • Are there any over-the-counter drugs or herbal supplements I should avoid?

  • How long will I need to continue taking medicine?

 Your lifestyle

  • How will COPD affect my home and work?

  • How can I quit smoking?

  • Do I need to lose or gain weight? Should I change my diet?

  • Are there any vitamins or supplements that I should take?

  • Do I need to become more active?

  • What kinds of physical activities are most appropriate for me?

  • How can I pace myself to make the best use of my energy?

  • How can I get a better night’s sleep?

Why speaking up works

Studies have shown that patients who have a good relationship with their provider tend to see better results and be more satisfied with the care that they receive. In addition, you know more about your own medical history than anyone else. You and your health care provider can use this information to make the right treatment choices for you and work as partners to improve your health.

By speaking up, you can help prevent problems, such as allergic reactions or drug interactions. At times, you might feel uncomfortable discussing personal matters with your health care provider. Do not let this stop you. Keep in mind that your doctor is there to help, not to judge. Chances are, your health care provider has already heard the same thing—or something like it—from other patients before.

Once you get started, you will think of your own questions. With the answers, you will know more about how to manage your symptoms, prevent complications, and improve your quality of life.