Annual Flu Shots Important For COPD Patients

SALISBURY – Flu season is upon us, which means it’s time to get your flu shot. For many people, getting a flu shot is a yearly ritual in hopes of saving themselves from getting sick during the cold weather season. For people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a flu shot is even more critical because it helps patients fight off potential exacerbations (flare-up’s) of symptoms.

“One of the most common risk factors for the deterioration of a COPD patient is catching a serious infection like the flu, so anything a patient can do to prevent an infection will go a long way in keeping COPD under control,” said Therese Ganster, Peninsula Home Care branch director.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends an annual flu shot for people with chronic medical conditions such as COPD. When people with COPD get the flu, it often turns into something more serious, like pneumonia. A flu vaccine can help prevent this from happening. According to the CDC, the best time to get vaccinated is in October or November.

Flu season usually begins in October and typically lasts into May.

COPD (also referred to as emphysema or chronic bronchitis) is a serious lung disease that, over time, makes it difficult to breathe. When COPD is severe, shortness of breath and other symptoms can get in the way of even the most basic tasks, such as doing light housework, taking a walk, even washing and dressing.

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States and causes serious, long-term disability. The number of people with COPD is increasing. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD and an additional 12 million are likely to have the disease but don’t know it.

Contrary to popular belief, you cannot get the flu from getting a flu shot, as it contains a killed virus.

However, minor side effects sometimes occur that may mimic flu-like symptoms including soreness and/or swelling at the injection site, a low grade fever and aching. These side effects are usually mild and can start soon after the shot is given, lasting only a day or two.

This year there are several different flu shots available:

A regular flu shot approved for people ages 6 months and older. A high-dose flu shot approved for people 65 and older. An intradermal flu shot approved for people 18 to 64 years of age. The nasal-spray vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses approved for use in healthy people 2 through 49 years of age (who are not pregnant).

“Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine this season, said Ganster. “It’s especially important for people who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease, pregnant women, people 65 years and older and caregivers of people with high risk conditions.”

To view a list of local facilities administering flu shots during the month of October, visit

Peninsula Home Care provides health care services, resources and “real world” therapy in the home. The home health staff provides and coordinates a plan of care and/or therapy that a patient’s doctor orders to help maintain the patient’s physical, mental and social well-being.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.