COPD: Lifestyle Management

Avoiding Infections

People with chronic lung or immunodeficiency diseases such as COPD need to be extremely aware of avoiding viral, bacterial, parasitic, and fungal lung infections, since these conditions make it more difficult for your body to stop and kill invading organisms. Consequently, you are more likely to get lung infections and, your infection will last longer. Lung infections will make your COPD symptoms much worse: you will be more short of breath, cough more, and have even less energy. Furthermore, once infected, it is more likely that the infection will progress to pneumonia.

Although it is important to take preventative measures to avoid lung infections, you do not need to isolate yourself from other people. There is no guaranteed way to prevent infections, however, if you are proactive with your vaccines, take the time to wash your hands, and are aware of your surroundings, then you will increase your chances of living an infection free life. Here is what we suggest:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Good hand washing with soap and water is one of the easiest and best ways to avoid getting all sorts of infections. Be extra vigilant at good hand washing whenever you visit a hospital, clinic, school, or any other place where a large number of people are gathered. Alcohol-based gels are also effective. 

  • When you do cough or sneeze, make sure you do so into your elbow area, a tissue or handkerchief rather than into your hands.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs are often spread this way.

  • If you use any equipment to help you breathe easier or clear your chest such as a spacer/holding chamber, nebulizer and/or Futter valve®/Accapella® make sure you clean them often and thoroughly. Cleaning instructions are available with the product.

  • Get a flu vaccine (against the influenza virus) every fall. 

  • Get the vaccine against pneumococcal bacteria (once with a second booster in 5 to 7 years).

  • Ask your healthcare provider about what vaccines are best for you.

  • Avoid crowds, and don't socialize with people who are sick. If your friend has a cold, don't get too close, or consider rescheduling until he or she has recovered and is no longer infectious.