Early COPD Symptoms: How It’s Often Confused with Asthma

Senior coughing

Recognizing the symptoms of COPD is the first step towards improving quality of life.

Coughing that won’t seem to go away. Wheezing. Shortness of breath. It’s likely an asthma attack, right? Before you reach for that inhaler or those cough drops, however, please consider if another culprit – COPD – may be a factor. With as many as 12 million people in America currently living with COPD (and as many as 12 million more who likely have the disease but have not yet been diagnosed), it’s important to uncover the real cause behind coughing, and our home care experts have provided the information below to help.

Some of the differences between these two conditions are:


  • Environmental factors, such as cigarette smoke, dust, and pet hair, can bring about asthmatic symptoms, which may include coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Asthma typically displays in childhood, often by age 5.
  • Asthma is thought to be caused by genetics.


  • Environmental triggers may worsen symptoms such as coughing and difficulty with breathing, but these symptoms are typically present in a milder form regardless of the air quality.
  • COPD is usually diagnosed after age 40.
  • COPD is mainly caused by cigarette smoking (in up to 90% of all patients), or by secondhand exposure to air pollutants.

Although medications for both COPD and asthma are often similar – bronchodilators or inhaled steroids – the treatment plans differ for each. Those with asthma are urged to stay away from known triggers, which may be staying indoors when the pollen count is high and steering clear of secondhand smoke. Individuals with COPD are faced with a more intense therapeutic approach, which often includes prescribed oxygen, pulmonary rehab to improve breathing capacity, and, most importantly, avoiding smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke.

Naturally, you’ll want to see the doctor if your senior loved one is struggling with any lung condition.

While there is currently no cure for either asthma or COPD, both of these conditions are better managed when correctly diagnosed and treated. Although COPD does cause permanent, irreversible damage to the lungs, with proper treatment, the progression of the disease can be slowed, its symptoms made more controllable, and quality of life maximized.

The professionals at Advanced Home Health Care are here to provide home care assistance to help make a chronic condition easier to manage. A few of the many ways we can help include:

  • Light housekeeping to minimize dust in the home
  • Accompanied transportation to doctors’ appointments and to pick up prescriptions
  • Support to encourage participation in a doctor-approved exercise program
  • Preparation of healthy, delicious meals
  • Friendly companionship
  • And more

To help a senior loved one stay safe and healthy at home, contact Advanced Home Health Care’s in-home care team at 800.791.7785, learn more about options for nursing services or home care assistance in Burlington and the surrounding area. See our full service area here.

The Care You Need. The Quality You Deserve.