A COPD Action Plan is an important tool for you and your healthcare team.
An action plan covers things like preventing exacerbations, steps to take to stay well, your therapies or medications, and actions to take when you experience difficulty breathing.
Each person's COPD is different, and each action plan is unique. However, almost all COPD action plans cover three situations. It helps to think of these situations like the colors on a traffic light: Green, Yellow, and Red.
Green means "Go."
Your Green zone indicates that you are feeling well. The Green zone is considered your normal. You are coughing as you normally would and producing the same amount of mucus as you do regularly. Your appetite and sleep are also unchanged.
Your Green zone should include your normal medicine regime, as well as your allergies and triggers.
Yellow means "Caution."
If you are not feeling well, or if you've experienced an exacerbation recently, then you should closely monitor your health and your environment. When you are in the Yellow zone, it's best to keep alert and monitor whether you are coughing more, if your mucus is more frequent, thicker, or a different color than it is normally. Feelings of breathlessness and changes in energy levels, as well as your need for rescue medication, should be noted and carefully tracked.
Your Yellow zone should address steps to decrease the changes of an attack. This could include increasing rescue medication use, starting a course of antibiotics and avoiding certain activities or triggers.
Red means "Stop."
Being in the Red zone means everything else must stop. You should follow the steps listed on your action plan immediately. If you are in the Red zone, you should get immediate medical care. Any pain, blood in mucus, severe shortness of breath, changes in alertness, or swelling in ankles might indicate that you are in need of emergency medical attention. However these are not the only warning signs. It's important that you and your doctor establish what symptoms are dangerous and when to get help.
Your Red zone should discuss your emergency protocols, including dialing 911, any emergency medications, and instructions for emergency services.
What Else Should be in Your Action Plan?
An action plan isn't just for emergencies. You may also want to include:
- Strategies for smoking cessation.
- Use of oxygen and other medications.
- Therapies such as pulmonary rehabilitation.
- Resources for support and care of your emotional well-being.
- Recommendations for diet and exercise that may help you manage your symptoms.
- Scheduling regular flu vaccines.
When it comes to living with COPD, it's crucial to have an action plan in place. You, your disease, and your goals are unique. Together you and your healthcare team can design and implement the plan that's right for you.
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