For people living with emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), flu season can be a particularly stressful time. When paired with the flu or a respiratory infection, breathing troubles brought on by these conditions can multiply, and obstructed and inflamed airways can make even the simplest tasks difficult to perform. Airway obstructions also increase the chance of such bacterial infections as pneumonia, because the body is unable to cough up infected mucus.
The good news is that there are several ways to prevent the flu, including staying up to date with the latest flu vaccine. While the best time to get a flu shot is at the beginning of flu season, in October or November, you can get the shot as late as January and still protect yourself from the virus. Encouraging your friends, family and co-workers to get flu shot is also recommended, as it will ensure that you are not surrounded by people who are sick with the flu.
In addition to receiving the flu vaccine, the following tips will reduce your chances of contracting the flu virus:
- Avoid crowds during cold and flu season.
- Wash your hands regularly throughout the day.
- Quit smoking, as it could make you more susceptible to contracting the flu. Studies have shown that more smokers contract the flu than nonsmokers, and when they do they have a more severe infection and a higher risk of dying from the flu.
- Carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you for times when a sink isn’t available and disinfectant wipes to clean any surfaces you are about to touch, such as shopping carts or door knobs.
- Take extra care not to touch your mouth, eyes or nose without first washing your hands.
- Ask your doctor about the pneumococcal vaccination, which helps prevent a certain type of pneumonia.
If these prevention methods do not work for you, be sure to contact your doctor with the first signs of flu symptoms. Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu may decrease the severity of flu symptoms if taken within the first 48 hours.