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Understanding and Using Your COPD Medications

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Several types of medication are used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms, and you may be placed on more than one medication to control your symptoms and reduce exacerbations. Here are some tips to help you understand COPD medications and how to use them:

  1. Talk to your health care professional. Ask your doctor to explain: why each medicine is being prescribed; possible side effects you might expect; and any signs you should be aware of that the medication is or is not working.
  2. Ask your health care professional about maintenance inhaled therapies, which studies have found to be convenient and more effective at maintaining symptom relief than short-acting, rescue therapies.
  3. Learn about your medication by reading the patient pamphlet and/or talking to your pharmacist.
  4. Get trained on using your inhaler(s). Use it in front of your health care professional to make sure you're using it correctly; some inhalers work differently.
  5. Tell your health care professional about any side effects or problems you have using the inhaler.
  6. Develop a routine for taking your medication. For instance, if you drink coffee every morning, put your medication by the coffee pot so you don't forget to take it.
  7. Store your medication in a dry place. A bathroom where people take showers is not the best place; the steam could affect the medication, particularly if you use a dry powder inhaler.
  8. Remember to take your medications when you travel. Put them in your purse or carry-on bag. Do not put it in checked luggage. See the Transportation Security Administration website ( for complete guidelines. Consider asking your doctor whether you should bring supplemental oxygen on flights and then check with your airline before you travel to find out its requirements.
  9. Ask a family member or friend to help you remember to take your medicine.
  10. Arrange for automatic refills from the pharmacy or use other reminder programs.

This resource was created with the support of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

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