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No one enjoys dealing with the aches, pains and fever that typically come along with the flu. Even if you’re a relatively healthy person, the flu can put you down for the count. But, if you have a condition like COPD, having the flu can literally make you lose your breath.

Not only are people with COPD more susceptible to the flu than the average person, the two forms of COPD – chronic bronchitis and emphysema – cause lung abnormalities that make it harder for them to fight off the flu. According to Brian Carlin, MD, past chairman of the COPD Alliance, people with COPD have increased risk for serious flu-related complications, like bacterial pneumonia, hospitalization and shortness of breath.

If you have COPD, the best way to treat the flu is to actually prevent catching it in the first place. Take these extra precautions to stay flu-free this season.

Get a flu shot.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu shot for everyone age six months and older. In addition to getting one from your doctor’s office, many chain drugstores and retailers also provide inexpensive flu shots.

Wash your hands often.

You can’t go wrong practicing proper hand hygiene, even if the flu is not a concern (as a reminder, a flu shot does not prevent catching the common cold). The key word, of course is “proper”. A Michigan State University study of hand-washing habits found only 5 percent of people who used the restroom scrubbed long enough to kill germs that can cause infections. To decrease your chances of catching the flu, be sure you are washing your hands vigorously at least 15-20 seconds with soap and water.

Avoid people that are ill.

It’s nothing personal, just a matter of life and health. A healthy habit is to avoid close contact, like kissing and hugging, anyone that is sick. If possible, stay away from large crowds and public transportation, where germs easily spread.

When you have COPD, it’ critical to practice prevention against the flu. If you feel something flu-like coming on, visit your doctor right away.


COPD: Don’t Treat Your Flu, Prevent It  was originally published on