We are in the midst of cold and flu season, and when you have a chronic disease like COPD, you have a greater chance of getting sick.

But don't get discouraged. You have the power to protect yourself. Two actions greatly increase your changes of not getting sick: 1) routine vaccinations and 2) washing your hands.


Experts recommend COPD patients receive the following vaccines:

  • Influenza/flu – This vaccine protects against seasonal flu, which hits people with COPD harder than most. The flu can also lead to serious complications and long hospital stays for COPD patients. When to get the vaccine: Once a year.
  • Pneumococcal – This vaccine protects against pneumococcal disease, a type of infection caused by a form of streptococcus (strep) bacteria. People with COPD are more at risk of this particular bacteria, which can cause serious complications and leads to about 180,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States. When to get the vaccine: Once as an adult before 65 years of age and then two doses at age 65 or older.
  • Talk with your doctor about getting your vaccinations up-to-date during your next office visit. Many vaccines are also available at area hospitals and pharmacies.

Hand Washing

Washing your hands is one of the best and easiest ways to prevent infection and keep you healthy. Follow these five simple steps from the CDC for effective hand washing:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.
  • Create lather or bubbles by rubbing your hands together with soap. Be sure to get the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel (paper or one-time use towels are best, especially if you live or work with other people) or air dry them.

Washing your hands with soap and water is best but not always possible. In those cases, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Be sure to apply the sanitizer to the palm of one hand and then rub the sanitizer over the front and back of both hands and between your fingers until your hands are dry.

When should you wash your hands? Hint: It's not just after you use the toilet. The CDC lists 10 key times to wash your hands. Also check out the CDC's video on the proper way to wash your hands.