Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the chronic respiratory disease with the most important burden on public health in terms of morbidity, mortality and health costs. For patients, COPD is a major source of disability because of dyspnea, restriction in daily activities, exacerbation, risk of chronic respiratory failure and extra-respiratory systemic organ disorders. The previous French Language Respiratory Society (SPLF) guidelines on COPD exacerbations were published in 2003. Using the GRADE methodology, the present document reviews the current knowledge on COPD exacerbation through 4 specific outlines: (1) epidemiology, (2) clinical evaluation, (3) therapeutic management and (4) prevention. Specific aspects of outpatients and inpatients care are discussed, especially regarding assessment of exacerbation severity and pharmacological approach.