Three Things Every COPD Patient Should Do

Cate Blanchett disguised as a homeless man
Posted by:
Mike Bael
July 8, 2015


  • ONE!
      • Have the doctor test them to see if they need a spacer
      • It’s a tube you can attach to many puffers
        • It makes using the puffer way, WAY, WAY EASIER!
        • Just call the doctor and ask.  If insurance covers it, he’ll probably say, “Sure, why not?
  • TWO!

If you think your husband, wife, father, mother or patient isn’t using his or her puffer correctly, you’re probably right.  If you think your husband, wife (etc.) is using the puffer correctly, you’re probably wrong.

  • 90% of people with COPD use their puffers incorrectly.  Or to put it another way, only 10% of COPD patients use their puffers correctly.
  • Or to put it another way 9 out of 10 COPD patients use their puffers incorrectly.  Or to put it yet another way, only 1 of 10 COPD patients use their puffers the right way.
  • Watch the video below.
    • It will show the 3 E-Z steps to using the puffer right
      • Exhale all the air out of your lungs
      • Press the puffer button (if you need to) and inhale deeply
      • Hold your breath for as long as you can (15 seconds if you can do it)
    • ‘Don’t suffer video’
  • THREE!

Label the puffers with brightly colored electrician’s tape.

There are two kinds of puffer medications

  • Rescue puffers that patients take when they’re SOB (short of breath)  (Hyperlink to names of rescue meds)
  • All the other COPD meds that prevent patients from getting short of breath in the first place (Hyperlink to names of all the other meds)

Except COPD patients mix up their puffers.  They take long acting meds when they should be taking rescue meds and visa versa.

This is partly because metered dose inhalers, even those that contain very different medications, look pretty much the same.

But COPD patients mix up their MDIs with their discs too, so who knows?  The point is, label ‘em with colored tape so there’s no question about which is which.  Then, tape a color-coded chart, itemizing which colored puffer should be taken when, to the table where your family member or patient takes his meds.  Resist the temptation to tape the chart to the wall.  Nobody reads charts on the wall.  They turn yellow.  It’s depressing.

It’s important to remember that there are two kinds of inhaled medications for COPD

  • Short-acting rescue medications that get rid of those symptoms when patients have trouble breathing
    • Albuterol, Proventil, Ventolin, Airet, Proair, Lefalbuterol, and more!
  • Long, medium and combined acting medications that prevent SOB (Shortness Of Breath — we won’t point out the obvious pun) in the first place
    • Flovent, Pulmicort, Advair, Symbicort, Combivent, Foradil, Dulera, Duoneb and more!!

But your patient has to take them the way they’re supposed to or

  • They won’t work right - "I have to use this stuff every 10 minutes!"
  • You’ll get side effects - "I am ner-vous man!  Edgy!  Edgy!  Edgy!"
  • You’ll run out - “This stuff isn’t working at all!” That’s because the puffer has been empty for 2 days.

4 ways to take puffer meds the wrong way

  1. Using the puffer too much
  2. Using the puffer too little
  3. Using the wrong puffer
  4. Using the puffer wrong

If you think your family member or patient is using the puffer too much:

  • One of these reasons might be why
    • They love their rescue med, like albuterol.
      • Albuterol provides immediate relief.
      • And it’s a stimulant.  Like coffee and cigarettes.  Some people like that feeling.
    • What to do about it
      • First, state the obvious.
        • Hey you!  You’re gonna run out of your albuterol before the end of the month.  That means that, soon, you’ll have NONE!
        • OK.  That probably won’t work, so don’t push it.  Nobody likes a nag.  (And don’t forget to have some sympathy—your husband might be taking so much albuterol because he’s uncomfortable all the time.)
      • Second.  Make sure they’re taking their long, medium and combined acting meds as they’re prescribed.
        • If they’re preventing their SOB with long-acting meds, like Advair or Flovent, they won’t feel like they need their albuterol (or other rescue med) so much.  In other words, they won’t need to be rescued all the time.

Talk to the doctor about depression.  Studies have shown that a lot of people who use too much of their COPD rescue meds are depressed.  Ask the doctor to take a look at that.


Mike Bael
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