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Chronic Lung Disease: Preventing Lung Infections

When you have chronic lung disease, it’s especially important to protect yourself from colds and other types of lung infections. These can lead to exacerbations (periods of worsened symptoms). The tips on this sheet will help you stay healthy. You should talk to your doctor about what to do if you have an exacerbation.

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Take Precautions

Taking the following precautions can help you avoid illness:

  • Wash your hands often, and keep them away from your face. Most germs are spread through hand-to-mouth contact. Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Lather well for at least 10 seconds to 15 seconds. Then rinse well.

  • Use hand sanitizer, waterless soap, or wet wipes between washings. This is especially important after touching things many other people have touched (such as supermarket carts or door handles). Then wash your hands the first chance you get.

  • Get a flu vaccination every year. This may be given at the doctor’s office, a pharmacy, or through work. It’s best to get the vaccination in the fall of each year.

  • Get a pneumonia vaccination. Ask your doctor how often you need this.

  • Avoid spending time around people with respiratory infections, such as colds or the flu. Try not to go out in crowds in the winter when more people are sick. Also try to avoid air travel during this time.

Signs of a Problem

You and your doctor should come up with a plan for what to do if you have an exacerbation. This may involve using a rescue inhaler or taking antibiotics or other medication. Here are warning signs of a problem:

  • Increased shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing

  • Mucus that has increased, has an odor, has changed color, or is bloody

  • A fever or chills

  • Tightness in your chest that does not go away with your normal medications

  • Sore throat or hoarseness

  • Fatigue

  • Swollen ankles


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