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Coping with COPD:  Avoiding Respiratory Illness

Coping with COPD: Avoiding Respiratory Illness

If you are living with COPD, you know how sickness can bring with it major complications.  In fact, COPD patients are nearly four times as likely to be hospitalized with the flu, or other viral illnesses.  There are some important things you can do to minimize your chances of getting an illness that severely impacts your breathing. 

Manage seasonal allergies

Changes of season, pollen, molds, and spores that commonly cause allergies can trigger worsening COPD symptoms.  It is important to take allergy medications appropriately and monitor pollen counts.  More people are hospitalized during peak allergy seasons than at other times of the year. 


The number one prevention tactic is handwashing!  Handwashing and using hand sanitizer after coming into contact with crowds of people, touching public items like shopping carts and hand rails, and after shaking hands can help prevent colds and other viruses. 


Early season flu vaccinations at the appropriate dosages, as well as pneumonia vaccinations, are recommended for all people coping with COPD.  Those that are over age 55 or who have COPD are recommended by the CDC to have a higher dosage of the seasonal flu vaccine. 

Avoiding large crowds

During peak flu and cold season, it is wise for the COPD patient to avoid shopping centers, airports, and other centers where large crowds of people gather.  This is especially common during the holidays.  Using online services and shopping at off-peak times can help minimize the risks.


Good nutrition and hydration

Good nutrition, including important vitamins and minerals, can help you fend off illness and support your immune system.  Your doctor may recommend supplements specifically for immune support, and if so, it is important to consistently take them, along with a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.  Adequate fluid intake helps to flush out allergens and keep your lungs clear. 

Avoid those that are sick

Communicate with your friends and family the risks if you get sick, and kindly ask them not to visit you if they or their household are dealing with an illness.  While healthy adults can cope with a cold rather easily, the COPD patient can have severe breathing problems and complications. 

Seek treatment early

Finally, if you DO get sick in spite of all the precautions, seek treatment early.  If you have flu symptoms, there are drugs that can minimize the length of the flu, and extra monitoring that can be done to support your breathing.  Your medications for COPD may need to be adjusted or increased during this time, and you may need supplemental oxygen or breathing treatments. 


While there is no need to become a hermit during flu season, it is important to be smart about minimizing your risks.  Giving your immune system a boost, good hand hygiene, vaccines, avoiding crowds and sick people, and treating your body well with good nutrition will go a long way towards reducing your chances of becoming ill. 


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