British Lung Foundation

Hi again and a quick question

I posted just over a month ago about being diagnosed with COPD. At the time I was in a state but with everybody's advice and just reading different posts on here, I have realised that this condition will only beat you if you let it.

The question, is there more than one that an exacerbation can occur?

This week I lost my voice and started coughing, saw GP who prescribed antibiotics just in case, though my chest was clear. Started coughing more with some green mucus and yesterday got very breathless, rang GP as instructed but couldn't have an appointment, later the GP rang and sent me to hospital saying I probably needed steroids and a nebuliser. Of I went, and was given both but chest still clear. The doctor said it was an exacerbation but I'm confused, I thought an exacerbation usually happened when you have a chest infection, but I haven't.

12 Replies

You might have had the first stage of a chest infection you can cough up clear mucus which will look like if you have just started to beat the White part of an egg or you can have black bits and not clear nor green or brown. Hope it helps. You as when they took me in 16 days ago my my mucus was white


Ah, the last exacerbation I had,I did not have an infection,I had a cold did not go to my chest,very usual for me not to get chest infection, so I am surprised too, I was bad in hospital a week,told to get out of there quickly before I caught anything. So that's why I do not take anti bs or steroids,but have been TOLD I have copd.results in jan. Yes you have to fight this disease before it gets you,sleep and eating are my most vulnerable times,I have to fight to eat somthing,no appetite ,every day I say I'm gonna eat,and I continue the fight,keep well.


Good Morning! It is very confusing! My husband suffers with very severe COPD and he has been told that an exacerbation is a worsening of symptoms - that can be accompanied by a chest infection. On a couple of occasions he has been on antibiotics in similar circumstances to you and then a week later he starts to be very breathless again - he usually need steroids with the antibiotics and sometimes needs steroids after he has finished the antibiotics. Sometimes he gets instant relief and other times it can seem to take ages for him to return to his "normal".

Though I would advise that if you think you are getting worse - go back to the doctor. It might be that the cold weather has affected you - the cold air completely flaws my husband. Or even that you are fighting a virus or cold. Annoyingly there is not a definitive answer - my husband has to just ride it out. But just remembering that if you are not getting better or the breathlessness gets worse - dont hang around, get some medical advise.

Wishing you the speediest recovery, lots of love TADxxx


Hi Karen an exacerbation is a worsening of your symptoms and while it often follows a cold or chest infection it is not always the case. Sometimes it just seems to happen out of the blue. It is confusing isn't it? I remember having a nasty one and because it didn't follow the usual pattern I delayed going to the doctors for a week. Eventually a friend made me ring the doctors and I had to have ab's, steroids and a session on a nebuliser.

You haven't been diagnosed with copd for long but you will get to know when something isn't right and normal for you and if in any doubt see a doctor. One told me once that they would far rather I went to see them and it was nothing than not go when it was needed. Sometimes there are triggers like traffic pollution or cleaning products and with experience you will learn what to avoid to keep yourself healthy.

Take care and I hope you are feeling better very soon. x


Hi Coughalot. Does an exacerbation mean a worsening of your symtoms or a worsening of your desease? I have had one since being diagnosed but had them a couple of times before, when I didn't know what I had.


I think Cof is saying worsening of symptoms. ... If you don't get the right medication at these times I would say you leave yourself open to worsening your disease - that's why it's essential to see a gp at the beginning of symptoms.

As Cof says, you gradually learn what's right for you.

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Pete always coughs up white frothy mucous but I do recall he sometimes gets black bits in it which I have always thought was old, dried blood. I think he does get infections but they do not often come to anything because of the Doxy he takes every day. Yesterday he was coughing/choking a lot and bringing up mucous all day yet today he seems a lot better. He does have sarcoidosis too and uses his nebuliser twice a day and does take steroids. Hope you get well soon Karen. Take care xxxx


Hi, thank you for your responses make sense now. I'm not daft but it seems every time I get asked 'do you have any questions?' my brain shrinks to pea size! It's great to have somewhere I can come where people are so kind and supportive. take care everybody xx

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i spent a week in hospital and had no infection your airways can get inflamed...the hospital had me on steroids and Ventolin nebs lots of them and sorted it out

you will learn along the way what symptoms you personally will show before you get unwell i have also had the lost voice

what inhalers does your gp have you on you may need a steroid based one most of us are on symbicort and eklira or spiriva

its all trial and error im afraid and reacting quick to any kind of change when it happens not to wait till your really ill

mandy x


Yes, you can have a non infectious exacerbation when steroids are given for the inflammation. I was in formed of this at PR by knowledgable staff. The trick is knowing the difference when we try to self diagnose, when to take just the steroids and when to take both. When in doubt always get expert advice, either your gp or the helpline - 03000 030555

I guess as time goes on we learn to tell the difference. I always say knowledge is power for us.

I've just started my emergency antiBs for the first time. I can't take steroids, bad news for me so what I do it take a double dose of my 2 x daily Seretide.

ps take copious Vit c & zinc to give your immune system a boost

xxx pps. Have you managed to get on to a PR course? You can learn a great deal more if you're lucky and get a good one like I did


Hi Karen. A good tip is to write down all your questions at home when you are calm and relaxed. Then when you see your GP just go through the list with him/her. It works for me,

Bobby xx


What a learning curve this is. I am currently on seretide and ventolin but this morning the GP has said that if I have another exacerbation they will consider changing the inhalers. He did give me an emergency pack with instructions to contact them before starting it.

Peeg - taking vitamin C but didn't think about the zinc ... will go and get some I need to give my immune system as big as boost as possible surrounded as I am at work by coughing and spluttering students all day!

Off school tomorrow but hoping I can get back on Monday, don't do this being ill bit very well and hate daytime TV! x


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