COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Symptoms of COPD may include:
There is an increased amount of mucus in the lungs of a person with COPD.
Shortness of breath
You may notice that the person in your care experiences shortness of breath when completing physical tasks such as climbing stairs or carrying groceries. However, a person may have more advanced COPD if tasks such as bathing or getting dressed result in shortness of breath. You may also notice a high pitched sound when the person breathes. This is called wheezing and it occurs when the air passages in the lungs are narrowed. The passages are narrowed as a result of the swelling and mucus that is present in the lungs of someone with COPD. Please report to the nearest emergency department or call 9-1-1 if the person experiences shortness of breath that does not subside with rest and/or the use of their prescribed “rescue inhaler.”
Cough that will not go away
Chronic bronchitis is part of COPD. A person with chronic bronchitis will have a cough for at least 3 months out of the year for at least 2 years in a row. The person in your care may have a cough for longer than 3 months out of the year.
Mucus producing cough a.k.a. “a wet cough”
You may feel like the person in your care is constantly trying to clear their lungs or throat of mucus. There is an increased amount of mucus in the lungs of a person with COPD.
Recurrent infections/illnesses that last longer compared to other healthy individuals
The mucus build-up puts the person in your care at risk of infections such as a cold, pneumonia, or the flu. The warm temperature of the body combined with the mucus lining the inner structures of the lungs provide a 5-star hotel for viruses and bacteria to settle into. The problem is that these viruses and bacteria are not in a hurry to check out of the hotel! People living with COPD are more likely to be sick with common illnesses for longer and tend to experience more severe symptoms. It is important that the person in your care is assessed by a health care professional if they have symptoms of an illness or infection.
Unexplained weight loss
The person in your care should be assessed by a health care professional if they are experiencing unexplained weight loss. Unexplained weight loss can be due to several causes however a person with COPD gradually uses more and more energy to breathe and clear their lungs of mucus. You may notice that they become tired more easily from normal day-to-day tasks. It is important that the person in your care attends all scheduled medical appointments. This will allow their lung function to be monitored and the medications/therapies to be altered accordingly. It is also important for the person in your care to maintain a healthy diet in order to fuel the body with the energy it needs.
If the person in your care has any of these symptoms they should consult a medical professional about the possibility of COPD.
For more information on COPD please visit https://www.lung.ca/copd
Please note that this article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice.
At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.