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Have COPD? Get Your Flu Shot

Have COPD? Get Your Flu Shot

The flu can be especially dangerous for sufferers of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Comedian and late-night TV host Johnny Carson died in 2005 from emphysema. That and chronic bronchitis are the two most common forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Smoking is the #1 trigger of COPD (Carson smoked a lot, even on air), but it can also develop from exposure to air/industrial pollution. COPD is the third leading cause of death in the US.

Unfortunately, COPD is often diagnosed only when it’s advanced, because people dismiss shortness of breath or fatigue as signs of normal aging (they are not!) and don’t ask their doctor to investigate the true cause of such symptoms!

If you’re one of the 11 to 15 million folks in the US with COPD, you’re vulnerable to a roster of health problems, including heart disease, lung cancer, pulmonary hypertension and depression. And now, research identifies yet another reason why everyone with COPD needs to take extra care of him or herself.

A study published in the journal Chest found when people with COPD get the flu, 1 of every 5 requires intensive care and 1 out of 10 dies. Even people with mild COPD who get the flu are more likely to develop pneumonia and other respiratory diseases than the rest of the population.

So, if you have COPD, it’s important to get the flu vaccine—even now if you have put it off! (Make sure those around you are vaccinated too.) And if you suffer from COPD and get the flu, see your doc pronto!

Medically reviewed in August 2018.

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