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Chronic Lung Disease: Preventing Lung Infections

Chronic lung diseases include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), most often chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. They also include pulmonary fibrosis, sarcoidosis, and other conditions. When you have chronic lung diseases, it's especially important to protect yourself from respiratory infections, like colds, the flu, and lung infections. Infections may cause your lung condition to worsen. Although you can't completely avoid them, there are things you can do to lessen the chance of infections.

Health care provider preparing to give injection in upper arm of woman sitting in chair.
Get a flu shot every year.

Take precautions

Taking the following precautions can help you avoid infections:

Remember to keep your hands away from your nose and mouth. Germs on your hands get into your respiratory system this way.

  • Wash your hands often, When you wash them:

    • Use soap and warm water.

    • Rub your hands together well for at least 20 seconds.

    • Make sure to rinse them well.

    • Dry your hands on clean towels or air-dry them.

  • Use hand sanitizer containing alcohol, if you are unable to wash your hands. Use the sanitizer after touching doorknobs, handles and supermarket carts, for example, since a lot of people touch them. Then wash your hands as soon as you can.

  • To help prevent the flu, get a flu vaccination every year. This may be given at your health care provider's office, a drugstore, or pharmacy, or at work. Get your flu shot as soon as the vaccines are available in your area. This is usually around September each year.

  • To help prevent pneumococcal pneumonia, get a pneumonia vaccination. For most people, this is a one-time vaccination.

  • Try to stay away from people with respiratory infections, such as colds or the flu. Stay away from crowded placed, like shopping centers or movie theaters during cold and flu season.

  • If you smoke, think about quitting. In addition to causing or worsening many lung conditions, the lung damage from smoking increases your risk of infections. Stay away from others who smoke, too. This is also harmful and increases your chance of infections.

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Date Last Reviewed: 7/21/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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