One of the first signs of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be a cough that will not go away. Coughing is your body’s natural defense mechanism to keep breathing pathways clear of irritants such as dust or smoke and mucus. When you have COPD, you have excess mucus and more frequent coughing.

Oftentimes your COPD symptoms worsen after becoming sick with a respiratory infection. Your best protection is to prevent as many of those infections as possible to avoid potential damage to your lungs. There is a vaccination that helps protect against whooping cough. A combined tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis vaccination has been around for about 70 years and people usually don’t think twice about getting a tetanus booster when they have a wound or are in an accident. But if you are only getting vaccinated against tetanus when the need arises, you are missing out on protection of pertussis that the Tdap vaccination protects against. Case in point, pertussis is a serious respiratory illness that is easily spread from person to person. It can lead to severe, sometimes life-threatening health problems in people with medical conditions such as asthma or COPD. And not enough adults are protected against it. Many think the pertussis or whooping cough is only an illness of childhood, but that is a misconception.

“It may be partially an oversight on the part of the patient and, unfortunately, on the part of the healthcare system that only 30% of adults have had a Tdap vaccination in the past 10 years,” states Albert Rizzo, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association. “Medical records are designed to easily track adult immunizations but may not always be up to date or checked during primary care visits because of other top of mind issues at the time of the visit.”

When you are diagnosed with COPD, you should be able to continue to live your life to the fullest. Here are three key reasons to get vaccinated against pertussis, especially if you have COPD:

  • Money. Getting vaccinated against pertussis can save you money. The Tdap vaccine is covered free-of-charge by most insurance plans and can be given at a routine medical appointment, at a community pharmacy or local health clinic. But if you become ill from pertussis, you will see increased expenses due to medical care, prescriptions or over the counter medications for symptom relief. If your disease worsens, you are also at-risk of being hospitalized, where naturally your cost and recovery time skyrocket.
  • Time. The severity of whooping cough symptoms can vary in adults. But one thing is clear – your symptoms are typically less severe if you have been vaccinated. The severity will impact your work (using sick or unpaid days), and less severe symptoms mean a quicker recovery, so you are back to doing the things you love most – like spending time with family and friends.
  • Health. Becoming sick with pertussis can lead to other complications. Not only could your COPD symptoms worsen, but other common complications such as ear or sinus infections, or pneumonia, may occur. As a result, you may be and feel sicker, longer.

Vaccination is the best way to help protect against pertussis. Preventing whooping cough helps reduce your risk of hospitalization, severe outcomes and even death for high-risk individuals. Speak with your healthcare provider to ensure your adult vaccinations are up to date.

Learn more at Lung.org/pertussis.

Support for the development of this educational blog provided by Sanofi

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