Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Exacerbations (Flare-ups)

A COPD flare-up or lung attack happens when usual COPD symptoms get worse over a short period of time (a few hours to 48 hours), or when new symptoms develop. Flare-ups are also called exacerbations.


77% of COPD patients have experienced exacerbations leading to an increased risk of hospitalization and disease progression2. According to Canadian data, 1 in 5 patients hospitalized for a COPD exacerbation require re-hospitalization within 30 days3.

A flare-up can be caused by a lung infection, such as a cold or the flu, smoking and exposure to air pollution, including second hand smoke. If you have COPD, it is important to prevent flare-ups and understand the signs and symptoms of flare-ups. A COPD flare-up may cause further damage to your lungs. To manage your COPD, you need to know:

  • how to prevent flare-ups
  • warning signs and symptoms of a flare-up
  • what to do if you have a flare-up, including when to get emergency help


1. WHO COPD Key facts…-(copd)
2. Neil Barnes et al; COPD and exacerbations: Patient insights. BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2013
3. Burudpakee et al; Pulm Ther 2017 DOI: 10.1007/s41030-017-0027-5
4.… disease/overview/lifestyle-management/bring-up-mucus