British Lung Foundation
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What can i do in a COPD emergency?

Hello everyone, i'm new on here. I've joined because I'm trying to support my brother who has severe COPD. I was wondering if anyone can advise me as to what i can do if i'm out with him and he has a sudden breathing attack? At home he has oxygen, nebuliser and inhalers. Are there any portable oxygen devices or anything else i can do, apart from getting him to the hospital asap? Any advice would be welcome. Thank You.

9 Replies

At the minimum, ensure your brother never leaves the house without his emergency rescue inhaler and cell phone to call the British 911 #.


Yes will do. Thank You.



As he is on oxygen at home has he been tested for Ambulitory oxygen. Oxygen desaturation when exercising and walking.

The action you take is dependant on the cause. If it's caused by a trigger, smoke of toxic fumes. Removing to cleaner air may resolve the situation.

If it's unexplainable or a panic attack being seated and keeping calm, including yourself will help the episode subside.

With any sudden worsening several puffs of his rescue inhaler Ventolin using a spacer will help open the airways.

I am single go out every day, and had many a turn including one during a hospital appointment which we had to cancel, no special treatment was given. Apart from my assurance that I was ok to drive home, they have a duty of care..

If any such attack happens find a quiet place to sit and encourage you brother to do pursed lip breathing and at same time concentrate on a fixed point. Encourage him to breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly. Use a visual aid, sit or stand in front and raise your hands palm up for inhale and palms down for exhale. Keeping yourself and your brother calm will quicken the recovery.

Having to many people around will only had to the problem.

He may already no of situations which can cause him concerns if so a short wait with a few minutes of pursed lip breathing may elevate the problem.

If your brother as anxiety issue which is a fact of COPD, if need be seek medical help.

If you don't feel able to cope or your brother is really struggling, don't hesitate ring 999. I had one such episode the ambulance was called by a passer by, result hours in A&E sent home by taxi with packet of antibiotics no further treatment.

As your brother attended a pulmonary rehabilitation course, apart from exercise they educate on the condition and what to do in a emergency.


Thank You Stone, for taking the time to respond in such detail.I will try your suggestions. Sorry about the poor response you got in A&E. no surprise there. I wish you all the best in your situation.


Hi sorry to hear this. I recommend you and your brother look up breathing exercise for copd online as there are lots on Youtube etc. He needs to practise this then if he does have an attack he can try doing them. This should help but if not then as the others have said don't hesitate to call an ambulance as this can be an emergency situation.

He needs to get a spacer for his reliever inhaler as several puffs into it should help his breathing and it is easier to get the meds where it is needed most.


Thank You for your advice. i'll try looking at the breathing ex'.


Keep him carm and make sure he has is blue pump at all times with him that is all you can do your self


OK Thank You David.



Hi There are a number of ways for portable oxygen, a little trolley, a back pack or a carry type bag, all obviously with a smaller cylinder. There are numerous people about who have some form or another of portable oxygen. Keep inhalers as standby.


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