COPD and infection risks - Avoiding colds and flu

What are the infection risks for COPD patients? 
If you have COPD, the risk of getting flu infection is much greater and you are also more likely to suffer more severely. The combination of poor lung function and effect of some types of chronic medication and inhalers, affect the body’s immune system. This can reduce the ability to fight off infections such as flu, pneumonia and other respiratory diseases. Once the flu strikes, it is like a vicious circle. The infection triggers a flare-up of COPD symptoms, which physicians may treat with steroids, which then allow the virus to multiply at higher levels¹.

Ways to avoid colds and flu
The most important thing you can do is to ask your doctor for a flu vaccination as early as possible. If you are elderly, you may be eligible for a high-dose vaccine. A high dose vaccine contains a larger amount of the inactivate flu virus, which will prompt a greater immune response and reduce the risk of contracting the flu¹.

If you, a COPD sufferer, do get the flu, it is beneficial to start antiviral therapy as soon as possible. These help lessen the severity of the illness. If taken within 36 hours, they can reduce symptoms and severity. Discuss this with your doctor immediately if you’re demonstrating flu symptoms¹.

General precautions for COPD patients to take1,2 to avoid the flu

Avoiding colds & flu for COPD sufferers
Do not smoke or be around smokers
Avoiding colds & flu for COPD sufferers
Take precautions around people who are sick
Avoiding colds & flu for COPD sufferers
Wash your hands often
Avoiding colds & flu for COPD sufferers
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
Avoiding colds & flu for COPD sufferers
Get plenty of sleep and exercise, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthily
Avoiding colds & flu for COPD sufferers
Ask your doctor for the pneumonia vaccination

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1. Coping with COPD and the Flu.
Accessed on 19 June 2015.

2. Web MD. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) - Prevention. 
Accessed on 3 August 2015.


For informational purposes only, not to replace physician's directions.