Keeping your Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease under control is the first step in keeping you healthy. You should be doing anything you can to prevent exacerbations, including doing specific lung exercises, quitting smoking, taking your prescribed oxygen therapy and medication as directed, as well as getting the immunizations that will help keep you healthy.
If someone you know gets a cold or the flu, who doesn't have COPD, they will be ill for about a week or two, and get better. If you were to come down with the flu, it can spell disaster and lead to an exacerbation. Getting the proper immunizations for things like influenza and pneumonia are important and will make a huge difference in your health throughout the year, and through the cold and flu season.
People tend to get sick much more often during the cold months, not because of the drop in temperature, but because of what we do when it starts to get cold outside. We spend more time inside around other people who then pass the viruses through tiny mucus droplets when they sneeze or cough, and then shake hands or touch a door knob, which is then touched by someone else.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), those with COPD are at a higher risk of developing the complications that can come along with the flu. Your lungs are already damaged and inflammed, so if you get the flu and even more irritation and mucus are involved, an exacerbation won't be far behind. An exacerbation is a flare-up in COPD, and leads to your condition getting worse in general, even when the worst of the exacerbation has passed.
If you are over the age of 65, your doctor will most likely want you to get a pneumonia shot and a flu shot, regardless of whether or not you have COPD. Pneumonia kills more people in the US each year than any other disease that can be prevented with a vaccine, and not all of those people had COPD. Pneumonia can be caused by a viral or bacteria infection, and can occur in just one or both lungs.
The flu shot that comes out for this year's flu season will be designed to guard you against this year's most common strains. There are many different strains of the flu, and viruses that resemble the flu, so unfortunately, you be guarded against everything (which is virtually impossible).
You will still need to take the steps to keep yourself from getting sick, such as washing your hands frequently and keeping your hands away from your face until you've had the chance to wash them or use hand sanitizer. When you sneeze or cough, use a tissue to cough into, or sneeze into your sleeve instead of your hands. The CDC also recommends that if you do feel yourself coming down with something – stay home. You need to rest as much as possible and take in fluids, as well as avoid getting others sick. Call your doctor as soon as possible if you've gotten sick and you have COPD.