COPD: Strengthen your defenses in the fall

Here’s how to avoid illness with COPD during cold and flu season

Two women walking in a park

If you have COPD, you want to be extra vigilant during cold and flu season. A common cold can become something more serious for your lungs, such as pneumonia. Having a cold can also make it more difficult to breathe. Use these tips to keep yourself healthy.

Get the flu and pneumonia shots
Everyone six months or older should get a flu shot every year, but people with COPD should also get the pneumonia shot to protect themselves. Not all pneumonia shots are the same, and they have different guidelines. Check with your doctor to find out which pneumonia vaccine is the right one for you.

Keep your hands clean
Scrub your hands with soap and water for as long as it takes you to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Avoid sharing writing utensils with others by carrying your own pen. “Try to avoid touching all these things in public that everyone else touches, and if you do touch things, use a little bottle of antibacterial wash in your pocket or purse,” says Jane Martin of the COPD Foundation.

Stay away from crowds
Try to avoid people who are already sick. Don’t spend a lot of time in places where people might share germs. Go to the mall or movies during off hours. Young kids can carry cold germs, so be sure to wash your hands after spending time with them.

If you do catch a cold, you might see changes in your symptoms, including:

  • Increased shortness of breath
  • Blood in the mucus, or a change in color
  • An increased amount of mucus
  • Increased coughing
  • Lack of sleep

If you feel short of breath or your mucus changes color, call your doctor right away. And if symptoms don’t get better after 72 hours, contact your doctor.