a man with a large flu shot standing on either side of him

COPD and Flu

Peak flu season is upon us. The first quarter of the year is when we are most at risk for "catching" the flu, and that can be bad news for people who have COPD. That means every person who has any kind of chronic respiratory condition, especially COPD, needs to get their annual flu shot as soon as possible.

The best way to prevent the spread of influenza (called "the flu" for short) is for everyone to get a flu shot each year. But for people with COPD, it's not just about stopping the spread of the flu. It's about keeping your COPD stable and preventing serious complications that might result.

Top three actions to prevent the flu

The Centers for Disease Control recommends these 3 main steps to take in order to prevent the flu.1

1. Get a flu shot. Everyone 6 months of age or older should get a flu shot each year. This is especially true of people considered high risk, which includes those older adults and those who have COPD.

2. Stop the spread of the flu virus.Wash your hands thoroughly and often and avoid sick people if you can. Other things you can do to strengthen your immune system include:

  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Stay physically active
  • Manage your stress
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Make healthy food choices

3. If you do get the flu, don't wait to contact your doctor. There are antiviral medicines your doctor can prescribe that will greatly reduce how severe your flu is and how long it lasts.

Why do people with COPD need a flu shot?

The bottom line is people with COPD are at high risk of developing serious flu complications, including pneumonia, hospitalization, and even death.3 This is true even if your COPD has been stable and if your symptoms are not that severe.

Keep in mind that your already swollen and sensitive airways are already stressed. Having the flu, which is a respiratory infection, can greatly worsen those effects. You may notice an increase in COPD exacerbations and your overall symptoms with the flu.

Your flu shot is, hands down, your best protection against the flu and serious illness.

How is the flu is shaping up this season?

According to the Center for Disease Control's latest FluView report (Dec 15 – 21), national levels of flu activity continue to rise and have been elevated for seven weeks.2 All states and territories in the U.S. are at or above the usual levels for this time of year. Experts do expect the accuracy of the vaccine to better match the circulating viruses this year than it did last year.4

Flu vaccines begin to be available early in the fall months, but it is still not too late to get your flu shot this year. So, if you haven't gotten it yet, talk to your doctor.

What do you need to know about this year's flu shots?

Here are some facts the Centers for Disease Control has provided about this season's flu shots:4

  • All standard dose flu shots (what most people over the age of 12 and under the age of 65 get) contain vaccine for 4 different flu viruses.
  • All shots made this year were made from viruses grown in cells, rather than eggs, so people with egg allergies need have no worries about having an allergic reaction.
  • Several different types of flu vaccines are available, including high dose flu shots for people over age 65 and even nasal flu vaccines (although the nasal spray vaccine is generally not recommended for people with COPD).
  • You cannot get the flu from a flu vaccine!

You have some options for the flu vaccine, as described above. The most important thing to remember, though, is that anyone age 6 months or older should get a flu vaccine every year. If you have any questions at all about which vaccine choice is right for you, consult with your doctor.

Where to get your flu shot

For people who have COPD and see a doctor regularly, the easiest way to get vaccinated may be just to get your shot during a routine office visit. But since it's getting late in the season now or if that's not convenient for you, the HealthMap Vaccine Finder may be able to help you find where to get a flu shot at public locations in your area. I got mine at our local grocery store!

The main thing is, if you haven't gotten your shot yet, don't delay. It can take up to 2 weeks for a flu shot to provide immunity to the flu virus. So the sooner you get immunized, the better chance you'll have of avoiding the flu this year.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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