COPD Action Plan

The COPD Action Plan is a written contract

between you and your health care team. It will tell you how to manage your COPD flare-ups.

Everyone living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) needs an action plan. This is a shared document between you and your health care team to help you manage COPD symptoms and flare-ups.

Use it to monitor your symptoms and know your baseline so you can quickly recognize if you’re having a flare-up—and what to do about it.

Why do you need a COPD action plan?

A COPD action plan is a very helpful tool.


It’s common for people to downplay their symptoms, but an action plan can help someone quickly recognize a serious setback and get help in time.


A COPD action plan also helps caregivers of people with COPD quickly recognize and treat flare-ups, keeping their loved one’s lungs as healthy as possible.


Last, a COPD action plan helps people access treatment steps quickly and avoid costly delays that could worsen or prolong a flare-up.

How does it look like?

You can download your own copy of the COPD Action Plan here.

What’s in an action plan?

Personal Goals

Your goals can be sources of motivation to keep track of symptoms and address flare-ups as they happen. Tailor your goals to your lifestyle and breathing ability. Your goals might include:

• Walking to the mailbox and back
• Golfing 9 holes
• Swimming 10 laps
• Playing with grandchildren
• Biking around the block
• Singing with the church choir
• Quitting smoking


COPD action plan will help you track important symptoms and help you monitor if you feel well, worse, or much worse. Many people with COPD will have some cough, phlegm, or shortness of breath even on a good day, so it’s important to be able to tell when things change or get worse. Symptoms of a COPD flare-up can include:

• Changes in the colour or amount of sputum (phlegm)
• Increased coughing
• Increased chest tightness or wheezing
• Increased shortness of breath

And in more severe cases:

• Nervousness
• Confusion
• Drowsiness
• Chest pain

You can also note personal triggers (such as allergies, cold/flu, stress, air pollution) that tend to cause symptoms or flare-ups right on the action plan for easy reference.



This is perhaps the most important part of the action plan since it tells you exactly what to do about your symptoms. Actions are based on what symptoms you are having, how long you’ve had them, and how serious they are. These steps might include:

• Increasing the number of puffs of your rescue puffer
• Taking meds prescribed for flare-ups (puffers, corticosteroid pills, antibiotics)
• Using breathing and relaxation methods
• Pacing yourself to save energy
• Increasing your supplemental oxygen rate if prescribed
• Calling your support contact or doctor
• Going to the nearest emergency department
• Dialling 9-1-1

It’s important to note that these action plans only apply to COPD and should not be followed to treat other illnesses or conditions. If you have severe shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing up blood, heart palpitations, weakness, or confusion, call your doctor right away or visit the nearest emergency room.

If you are a person with COPD who does not have an action plan,

ask your health care professional about one right away.

Learn more about breathing techniques to improve some of your symptoms.


Frequently Asked Questions

If you are diagnosed with COPD, your health care provider should provide you with an action plan and fill it out with you. They will give you instructions on what steps to take and how to properly use medications. If you do not have an action plan, book an appointment today with your family doctor, nurse practitioner, or respiratory therapist. Almost everyone is eligible for one.

You should keep your action plan in a prominent place (like on the fridge) and get into the habit of looking at it each day to regularly check in on your lung health. If you start to feel unwell or different than usual, consult your action plan right away.