Coping with the flu with COPD | Cold-Q™

Do you suffer from COPD? Also known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; chronic bronchitis; or emphysema. COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. Progressive means the disease gets worse over time.  Many are often hospitalized during a bout of a cold or flu, and find it difficult to cope with a cold when they have COPD.

Consider using Cold-Q when feeling symptoms of a cold  coming on, and here’s why:

COPD can cause coughing that produces large amounts of a slimy substance called mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and other symptoms.

COPD  develops over time. In most cases, COPD is diagnosed in people over 40 years of age. Someone with COPD may not realize that they are becoming more short of breath until it becomes very hard to do simple tasks like walking up stairs. When you have COPD, your lungs are obstructed or blocked, making it hard to breathe.

To avoid the double trouble of COPD and flu or worse, COPD and pneumonia, take steps to protect your health when you feel symptoms of a cold or flu.

Researcher and respiratory health expert Sebastian L. Johnston, MBBS, PhD, a professor of respiratory medicine and head of the airway disease infection section at the National Heart and Lung Institute at the Imperial College London, found that part of this increased risk for COPD exacerbations results from a subtle interaction between COPD-affected airways and the viruses that cause colds and flu. Dr. Johnston points out that people with COPD may experience a greater-than-normal inflammatory response to viral infections, which makes an exacerbation more likely. Read the full article here.

While you don’t need to go into quarantine, you do want to be smart about protecting yourself to reduce the chances of having both COPD and the flu:

While you don’t need to go into quarantine, you do want to be smart about protecting yourself to reduce the chances of having both COPD and the flu:

  • Stick with your COPD plan. “If your COPD is under control, you should be less susceptible to infection,” says Dr. Noth. If you’re not sure how well you have your COPD under control, or if you’ve been skipping prescribed oxygen or medication, check in with your doctor and get back on track. Ask what to do if your symptoms get worse because of a cold or flu infection.
  • Get protective shots. When you see your doctor, don’t just get your medications for COPD — get a flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine. “COPD patients need to get their flu vaccination and their pneumovax,” says Noth. “That won’t guarantee they won’t get sick, but it will protect against the 23 strains covered in the pneumovax and recent flu strains.” The combination of COPD and pneumonia is a mix that can threaten your health.
  • Wash your hands. This simple, tried-and-true tenet of good hygiene is the best way to prevent getting and spreading a wide range of illnesses, including colds and flu.
  • Avoid infected people. Though Noth doesn’t advise completely isolating yourself during this season, be wise about where you go. That means limiting (or avoiding) contact with people who are actively sick with a cold or the flu. For example, it’s not the best time to volunteer at your grandchild’s elementary school. Researchers who followed about 120 adults with COPD through the season found that contact with school-age kids was the biggest risk factor for finding viruses that can lead to their getting sick. You don’t have to skip all visits with younger loved ones; just remember to wash your hands frequently to keep germs at bay.
  • Don’t panic. A bout of the flu or a cold might make you miserable for a short time, but your overall health should remain intact if you have a management plan in place. Headline grabbers (like the H1N1 influenza outbreak of 2009) should not concern most people with COPD, Noth says, because such outbreaks generally affect mostly younger adults.
  • Take care of your overall health. Get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, stay hydrated, and quit smoking. All these steps help boost your immune system, improving your ability to fight off infection

The Flu and COPD Exacerbation

Unfortunately, people with COPD are even more susceptible to the flu than the average person who may be unlucky enough to come down with it in the first place. According to Brian Carlin, MD, a Pittsburgh-based pulmonologist and the immediate past chairman of the COPD Alliance, the two forms of COPD — chronic bronchitis and emphysema — cause lung abnormalities that keep you from fighting off the flu as easily as others can.

If you have COPD, you need to be extra-careful with flu prevention in order to avoid not only the symptoms of the flu itself but also COPD exacerbation, a severe worsening of the condition with increased shortness of breath. As Carlin explains, people with COPD are more likely to experience serious flu complications, to need hospitalization, and to miss more time at work because of their much more limited ability to tolerate the effects of flu, such as fever, muscle aches, increased shortness of breath, and dehydration.

Related article:

Coping with a Cold When You Have COPD

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