More than a cough: What does COPD feel like?

Senior hispanic man man testing breathing function by spirometry. Diagnosis of respiratory function in pulmonary disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is a chronic lung disease that impacts airflow in and out of your lungs. As a result, patients with COPD often feel out of breath. If you’re not familiar with the symptoms of COPD, it can be hard to discern whether you've overdone it with physical activity, are dealing with a cough, or need to see a doctor.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

Due to restricted airflow, patients with COPD may feel like they are breathing through a straw. This can lead to fatigue and may interfere with daily activities like walking, talking, or completing chores.


Initially, COPD symptoms may be so mild that you don’t notice them at all. But this disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms will worsen as time goes on.


Here are some of the most common symptoms of COPD:

  • Persistent cough
  • Shortness of breath during everyday activities
  • Excessive production of phlegm and mucus
  • Frequent chest infections
  • Wheezing
  • Fatigue


In addition to becoming worse over time, COPD symptoms can also flare up occasionally. This means that some days, your symptoms may feel more manageable than normal.

When should you see a doctor about COPD symptoms?

Most COPD symptoms are also signs of other conditions. For example, breathlessness could be a symptom of increased physical activity. A cough could mean you have a cold or the flu. So how do you know when is the right time to talk to your doctor?


If you’re experiencing symptoms related to COPD, consider the factors surrounding them. If you frequently feel out of breath but can’t attribute it to weight gain or increased activity, you should talk to your doctor. Similarly, if your cough is chronic—lasting more than eight weeks—that is also cause for concern.


In short, if your symptoms are persistent enough to affect your daily life, reach out to your doctor for a proper diagnosis.


If you’re having difficulty managing a chronic health condition and leaving home is a challenge, CenterWell Home Health can help. A team of nurses and therapists come to you and provide personalized, comprehensive care tailored to your specific needs, limitations, and lifestyle.

What are the risk factors of COPD?

Certain factors put some people at a higher risk of developing COPD. Here are some of the most common risk factors:

  • Smoking or breathing in secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to air pollution
  • A history of respiratory infections
  • A family history of COPD


If you have any of these risk factors, it’s important to reach out to your doctor as soon as you notice symptoms.

Content contained on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Consult your health care provider before beginning any new fitness or dietary plan. References provided are for informational purposes only and do not constitute endorsement of any websites or other sources. Should you have any health-related questions, you should contact your health care provider.





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