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The COPD Action Plan -

What Is It?

Other than quitting smoking, one of the most important steps for any person with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is to work with their doctor on a COPD Action Plan. This plan will help you know how and when to take your medication, when to call your health care provider if you experience a “flare” or “exacerbation” of your symptoms, and when to get emergency care.

It is important to know:

What are your ‘usual’ every day symptoms?

You may cough every day, but take note of what color your phlegm is, and how thick is it?

What usually makes you feel short of breath? When you become ill, you may find simpler chores and activities leave you feeling short of breath.

Watch for a COPD “flare”/”exacerbation” when:

 -  You get a cold or flu

 You feel run down or tired

 You are exposed to air pollution

After weather changes

-  When your mood changes; such as feeling down or anxious

How do I know I’m having a COPD “flare”/exacerbation?

If you have one or more of the following symptoms for 1-2 days, you may be having a flare:

-Increased shortness of breath compared to normal

-Increased coughing and phlegm compared to normal

-Your phlegm changes from its normal color to yellow, green, or rust color


The new 2013 version of the COPD Action Plan  has two parts. Any healthcare professional can start the process of reviewing with you and  filling out your COPD Action Plan.

PART ONE  (above) works like a traffic light system.

The GREEN section describes your symptoms when you’re feeling well – you should continue your medications every day. You’re able to do your usual chores and activities.

The YELLOW section describes your symptoms when they start to become worse. If you notice a change in your sputum/phlegm OR you feel more short of breath for two days, it’s time to take action!

·         Within 48 hours of this change in symptoms, you should start your antibiotics and/or prednisone as described in your Action Plan.

·         Continue your usual every day medications!

·         Use your reliever inhaler (often your “blue” inhaler) more often to help your shortness of breath.

The RED section describes a situation where your symptoms have now progressed to be very unwell.

·         If you are:

·         -dizzy, light-headed, so short of breath you cannot speak, or have chest pain – CALL 911 or have a support person take you to the nearest hospital, use your rescue inhaler to help relieve your shortness of breath.

(Note: There is also additional information on the backside of the actual form (not shown here)

PART TWO  (below)  (TAN COLORED) section is filled out by your doctor.

This explains to you how to change your breathing medications if you are having a “flare up” of symptoms.

This includes a prescription to take to your pharmacy to keep on hold  to use when a flare happens.

Follow these instructions exactly as they are written. Ensure you finish your prescription for antibiotics and prednisone, even if you start feeling better after a couple days.

If you need to ‘take action’ and start your antibiotic and/or prednisone prescriptions, call or book an appointment with your doctor or respiratory Dr. within 2 days.

Things to remember about your COPD Action Plan:

-For each person, their COPD is different, and they should discuss their own Action Plan with their physician

-Early treatment can help reduce the impact of a flare up!

-If you start antibiotics, be sure to FINISH the entire prescription, even if you start feeling better after a couple of days!

-There are many different versions of a COPD Action Plan, review yours regularly with your physician or health care provider.

-Quitting smoking and ensuring your vaccinations (influenza yearly and pneumococcal at least once) will help prevent future flare ups of your COPD.

-Know who to call as a resource person if you have questions! Your physician, a COPD Help Line, a respiratory educator, or other health care provider can help you know whether you are having “a bad day” with your breathing, or if it progressing to something more serious.


Prepared By: M. Savelle RN, CRE

                     Jackie Whitaker




For Additional Information on the new/updated  Canadian Thoracic Society's COPD Action Plan visit


For the actual PDF fillable, downloadable form visit






This page was last  last updated April, 2013




































































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