Influenza and H1N1 – ALERT for People with Lung Disease and Their Caregivers

(October 16, 2009)

People with lung disease like asthma and COPD are at particular risk to develop serious symptoms from both seasonal flu and H1N1 (swine) flu. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than half of adults hospitalized with the H1N1 strain of influenza had conditions such as asthma and chronic lung diseases. If you suffer from lung disease, contact your health care provider if you feel the onset of flu symptoms.  You should be especially alert to changes in your breathing.

If you do become sick with the flu, continue taking your normal medications, unless your health care provider makes other or additional recommendations.

Be sure to keep the contact information for your health care provider with you at all times.  As always, maintain a list of all medications you take as well as the dosages and frequency.

Remember these tips to protect your health and prevent spread of the flu: 

  • Get vaccinated for both seasonal flu and H1N1 flu
  • Cover your nose and mouth with your arm when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water 
  • Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective when washing isn’t possible
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people
  • Avoid large crowds
  • Ask family and friends to be mindful of your higher risk and not expose you to their sickness if they are ill
  • Stay home if you are sick:
    • For 7 days after symptoms begin; or
    • Until clear of symptoms for 24 hours
    • Watch for public health advisories, as these recommendations may change

For those with asthma, please remember to refer to and maintain your Asthma Action Plan as necessary.  You can download a template to create your Asthma Action Plan

Please note: There are two ways to receive flu vaccine - the flu shot and the nasal spray vaccine. People with chronic lung disease, such as asthma and COPD should not receive nasal spray flu vaccine.