Health Tips: Flus and COPD

Those with emphysema or chronic bronchitis (the two conditions that fall under COPD) need to take extra care in avoiding the flu this year. For COPD sufferers, breathing is difficult under the best conditions—add the flu (a respiratory viral infection) and those obstructed, inflamed airways make the task that much harder. The flu in COPD patients is accompanied by the following symptoms: more frequent and severe coughing, increased mucus production, and further shortness of breath. They also may feel fever, weakness, severe aches and pains in joints and muscles, ill appearance with clammy skin, headache, and sore throat.

To understand how to prevent the flu, we must understand what we’re up against. According to a recent post by Terry Naturally, viruses love dry air, so they survive longer in a low-humidity environment. Another factor is that during the colder months people tend to be cooped up inside in close quarters with others who may be infected. The stress of the holiday season and the workday grind with little outside light can also run immune systems down, making them more susceptible to infection. Weakened immune systems can also be caused by antibiotics, which kill much of the good bacteria in your gut, leaving you more at risk for infection.

Flu prevention starts with blocking the ports of entry into your system. Eighty percent of infectious diseases start by touch, so wash your hands often, and cover your hands (if possible) when touching public surfaces such as doorknobs. Frequent, effective handwashing will cut your risk by 50 percent or more.

Viruses will often enter your system through the nose. Terry recommends buying a good herbal ointment from a health food store and using a cotton swab to apply it to your nasal passages once or twice a day.

Beyond that you can shore up your immune system by eating a proper diet, getting good sleep, minimizing stress, and exercising. As far as supplements go, vitamin D is crucial—adults with low vitamin D are twice as likely to experience respiratory infection. Specific immune-boosting supplements featuring elderberry, black currant, and zinc are a good idea as well. Finally, don’t skimp on vitamin C—shoot for at least 500 mg a day.