Awareness Campaign

Ahead of World COPD Day (Nov 16),
with 270,000 people unaware that they have
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)…

COPD Support Ireland asks…
Do you know the “ABC” of COPD?

It is estimated that there are 380,000 people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, in Ireland. Yet, 270,000 of these are unaware that they may have this serious and progressive lung condition. Sadly, according to the National Healthcare Quality Reporting System, at least 1,500 people die each year of COPD and over 15,000 patients are admitted to hospital with the disease.1

While perhaps more well-known as bronchitis or emphysema, what is not so well-known about COPD are its symptoms and risk factors. Against this backdrop, and with World COPD Day taking place on Wednesday November 16, COPD Support Ireland is urging the people of Ireland to get to know the “ABC” of COPD and when they should get checked out: 

  • A is for those Age 35 and over
  • B is for ongoing Breathlessness
  • C is for a Cough that won’t go away, with or without phlegm

In summary, if you are over 35 years of age, have ongoing symptoms of breathlessness and a persistent cough, with or without phlegm, then you are encouraged to visit your GP for a simple spirometry breathing test.

Expert Videos
While tobacco is the main cause of COPD, other risk factors include exposure to second-hand smoke, inhalation of dusts, chemicals and fumes, living with an existing condition such as chronic asthma, and having a family history of certain lung-related illnesses. 

To mark World COPD Day, COPD Support Ireland is launching a series of expert videos on life with COPD. The videos cover topics such as what is COPD, types of treatments, managing breathlessness, using oxygen, coping with flare-ups, making the most of exercise, going abroad, and accessing supports. Other educational resources to support people with COPD, including the COPD & Me information booklet, and the Exercise at Home poster, are also available and can be found at 

Gloomy Statistics
Consultant Respiratory Physician & chair of COPD Support Ireland, Prof. Tim McDonnell, comments:
“It really is quite astonishing that more than two-thirds of the people thought to have COPD in this country have absolutely no idea that they have it. It’s probably then not surprising that Ireland has such high hospitalisation for COPD with a rate approximately double that of the UK according to latest figures1. However, notwithstanding these gloomy statistics, the important message that I would like to get across is that while COPD is a chronic disease that unfortunately doesn’t go away, early diagnosis means that treatment and support can be offered immediately meaning a much better quality of life, for longer. 

“Because smoking is the major risk factor in causing COPD, many people have a misplaced guilt on learning of their diagnosis, which can give rise to stigma and judgement. Firstly, it’s important to remember that when they would have started smoking a number of decades ago, the information back then as to its harmful effects was much less apparent than it is now. Secondly, smoking is an addiction and not an easy nut to crack. That’s why I’d encourage smokers to access the many supports available to help maximise their quitting chances.” 

Joan Johnston, General Manager, COPD Support Ireland, adds:
“As we enter the winter season, I really cannot stress enough the importance of everyone getting their ‘flu, pneumonia and COVID vaccines. This will not only help people whether they have COPD or not, but will also help minimise the risk of spreading infection to others. There were many new routines adopted in response to the pandemic and, if you have been diagnosed with COPD, or have lung health problems, it really does make sense to continue to avoid overly-crowded places at this time of year, and to wash your hands or use hand sanitiser regularly when out and about.”

“If you or a loved one has a persistent cough, shortness of breath or recurring chest infections, I’d urge you not to delay but contact your GP or call the COPD AdviceLine on Freefone 1800 832146 where you can make an appointment to speak to a COPD specialist nurse or physiotherapist.”

For full details of the national network of 33 COPD support groups under the COPD Support Ireland umbrella across the country, and the exercise and education programmes on offer, visit