COPD and Flu Season

Person with COPD washing hands to avoid flu

Viruses like the flu can be hard on the body’s immune system. But if you’re living with COPD or another chronic lung condition, a seasonal flu can cause flare ups and leave you vulnerable to other serious health complications. Therefore, it’s important to take every precaution necessary to prevent exposure and stay healthy this season.

In this article, we’ll discuss some preventive measures on how to avoid getting the flu and what to do if you start experiencing symptoms.

How To Avoid the Seasonal Flu

Whether you or a loved one is living with COPD, it’s important that everyone in your family practices the following preventative tips:

Graphic Icon of Annual Flu VaccinationGet Your Annual Flu Vaccination

Your healthcare provider or local pharmacy will likely offer flu vaccines. You can find where to get vaccinated in your area by visiting the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s vaccination finder.

  • Remember: It’s essential that you, your loved ones, and anyone else living in your household, who is six months and older, gets vaccinated. “Children, elderly people, and those with chronic disorders (such as lung diseases, including COPD) are at higher risk of flu-related complications. Because of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the influenza vaccine for these high-risk groups.”[1]

Wash Your Hands

As with the common cold, flu-laden respiratory droplets can remain on surfaces for several hours, leaving you prone to exposure: “Viruses generally remain active longer on stainless steel, plastic and similar hard surfaces than on fabric and other soft surfaces.”[2]

  • Remember to avoid touching communal surfaces and wash your hands frequently.
  • If you have grandchildren, it’s important to remind them of this healthy practice, too. As flu season occurs right around the time kids head back to school, they often become carriers of cold and flu viruses. Have them wash their hands frequently, and be sure to disinfect any communal areas of the home.

Avoid Touching the Face, Mouth, or Eye Area

Germs and bacteria can latch to your hands and enter your body through these channels.

Continue Prescribed Therapy Treatment

Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to continue your therapy program to keep your immune system strong and manage your COPD symptoms. Continue doing your treatment regimen, like your high frequency chest oscillation (HFCWO) therapy as prescribed by your doctor.

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Do you have Medicare? See how a new waiver expands coverage for HFCWO therapy, like SmartVest.

What Should I Do If I Have the Flu and I Also Have COPD?

No one likes getting the flu, but if you’re living with COPD, getting the flu could mean a worsening of chronic symptoms: “Flu virus infection of the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Flu also can make chronic medical problems worse.”[3]

According to the CDC, common signs of the seasonal flu include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent coughing
  • Sore throat[4]

And because the flu also shares similarities with COVID-19,[5] it’s best to keep your doctor updated on your symptoms to ensure you receive the correct course of treatment.

If you’re experiencing any flu symptoms, you should

  • Contact your doctor immediately
  • Take any prescribed medication
  • Continue HFCWO therapy, as directed
  • Avoid going outside your home
  • Tell your doctor if your symptoms worsen.

For more tips on flu prevention, visit the CDC website.


Resources

[1] COPD News Today. “Flu Vaccine Reduces Severe Outcomes in COPD Patients, Canadian Study Shows.” Retrieved from https://copdnewstoday.com/2019/02/05/flu-vaccine-reduces-severe-outcomes-in-copd-patients-canadian-study-shows/

[2] The Mayo Clinic. “Cold and Flu Viruses: How Long Do They Live Outside the Body?” Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/infectious-disease/expert-answers/faq-20057907

[3] CDC. “Flu Symptoms and Complications.” Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm

[4] CDC. “Flu Symptoms and Complications.” Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/symptoms.htm

[5] CDC. “Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm

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