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Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, and Flu

What's the Treatment for Flu With COPD?

First, if you have emphysema or chronic bronchitis, it's important to stay on your prescribed COPD medications, such as bronchodilators or inhaled steroids. Also, check with your doctor before taking any over-the-counter flu treatment. If your doctor approves, you might treat the body aches and fever associated with flu with acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

With COPD, avoid antihistamines and decongestants, because these flu treatments can thicken mucus, making it even more difficult to cough up. Decongestants raise blood pressure, and some of the drugs used to treat COPD also raise heart rate. They should be used with caution.

Cough medicines are not generally recommended for patients with COPD because they have not been shown to improve COPD symptoms. Although cough can be a bothersome symptom, cough suppressants should be avoided or used with caution, because they may reduce your ability to clear secretions from your lungs and may increase the risk of lung infection.

Sometimes, patients with COPD and flu are hospitalized because of a respiratory infection and the worsening of their symptoms. Treatment during hospitalization may include inhaled medications, oxygen, and antibiotics to treat any bacterial infection.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Home Remedies for Fast Flu Relief.

How Can I Prevent Flu With COPD?

The following guidelines can help to prevent flu with COPD:

1. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly several times each day to help prevent the spread of flu.

2. Check with your doctor about an influenza vaccine. You need a flu shot every year. The best time to get a flu shot is October or November, but you can get a flu shot in January or even later. Flu season can begin as early as October and last through May, so make sure you're taking preventive steps. Urge friends, family members, and co-workers to get flu shots. It's easier to prevent flu if those around you are not sick with flu.

3. Also, get a pneumococcal vaccination, which helps prevent a certain type of pneumonia. In some patients with COPD, the vaccine should be repeated every 5 to 6 years. Talk to your doctor to see what's best in your situation.

4. Avoid crowds during cold and flu season.

For in-depth information, see WebMD's Flu Prevention Strategies.

When Should I Call the Doctor About Flu With COPD?

If you have COPD, see your doctor regularly, even if you are feeling fine. Make a list of your breathing symptoms, and think about any activities that you can no longer do because of shortness of breath. Bring to each doctor's visit a list of all the medications you are taking.

If you get the flu, ask your doctor about antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu. Antiviral drugs may help decrease the severity of flu symptoms if taken within the first 48 hours.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on June 22, 2014
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