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Patient Education of the Month

Importance of Flu Vaccine and COPD

Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu. Vaccination has been shown to have many benefits including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even the risk of flu-related death in children. Flu shots not only provide protection against the flu, but they can help people with COPD prevent COPD exacerbation, a period of time when COPD symptoms worsen that can lead to hospitalization and possibly premature death. Repeated episodes of COPD exacerbation may cause lung function decline to progress more rapidly and may shorten COPD life expectancy. Exacerbations are the number one reason people with COPD seek emergency treatment and get admitted to the hospital. Because of the seriousness of an exacerbation, anything you can do to prevent an infection like the flu will go a long way toward keeping COPD under control. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an annual flu shot for people with chronic medical conditions such as COPD and Asthma. Additionally, the Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) advises that getting vaccinated against the flu and pneumonia helps reduce the risk of acute exacerbation

Quick Facts About the Flu Shot

The influenza vaccine, otherwise known as the flu shot, is an inactivated vaccine containing a killed virus. The shot is given through a needle, usually in your arm. About two weeks following the vaccine, your body will have produced enough antibodies to protect you against the flu.

When to Get Vaccinated

According to the CDC, the best time to get vaccinated is in October or November, but you can continue to get vaccinated in December, or even later during the year. Flu season usually begins in October and typically lasts into May.

Who Should Get Vaccinated?

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated this season with a flu shot, but that it's particularly important to get vaccinated if you're prone to high-risk complications like pneumonia if you get sick with the flu. Those likely to fall into this category include:

Who Shouldn't Get Vaccinated?

Consult your health care provider prior to getting a flu shot if you have any of the following:

Types of Flu Vaccines

There are four different types of flu vaccines available. Discuss which one you should get with your primary care provider:

Side Effects of the Flu Shot

Contrary to popular belief, you can't get the flu from getting a flu shot because it contains a killed virus. However, side effects from the shot often mimic flu-like symptoms and include:

Side effects from the flu vaccine can begin soon after the shot is given and are generally very mild. They usually subside after only a day or two.

Most people who receive a flu shot have no problems from it, however, as with any medication or vaccine, severe allergic reactions may occur. If you notice signs or

symptoms of anaphylaxis (a severe, allergic reaction) seek immediate, emergency treatment.

Still unsure about getting a flu shot?

Resource: Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America

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