Emphysema, Chronic Bronchitis, and Colds

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Which cold treatment should I use with emphysema or chronic bronchitis?

First, it is important to stay on your prescribed medications for emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Then, to decide how to treat cold symptoms, it's best to talk with your doctor. You might treat the body aches and fever associated with a cold with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. In addition, you should avoid antihistamines that thicken mucus and make it even more difficult to cough up.

Most over-the-counter cold remedies are generally safe for people with emphysema and chronic bronchitis. However, decongestants raise blood pressure and some of the medications used to treat emphysema and chronic bronchitis also raise heart rate. So, use decongestants with caution. Again, ask your doctor about medications for cold symptoms.

Can I prevent colds if I have emphysema or chronic bronchitis?

The following guidelines can help:

  • Good hygiene can decrease respiratory infections such as colds. Prevent the spread of a cold virus by making sure you and your family members wash your hands regularly.

  • Check with your doctor about a pneumonia and influenza vaccine. You need a flu shot every year. One pneumonia shot is usually enough to protect you from a specific type of bacterial pneumonia.

  • Avoid crowds during cold and flu season, since colds and flu can cause serious problems for people with COPD.

  • Pay attention to healthy lifestyle habits by avoiding cigarette smoke and air pollutants; eating a balanced, healthy diet; and exercising to stay strong.

  • Sinus infections can trigger breathing problems for those with emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Be aware of your sinus symptoms and report them immediately to your doctor to prevent worsening of breathing difficulties.

WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES: American Lung Association: Need Help For Treatment Decisions with COPD? American Lung Association: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Fact Sheet. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: COPD: Learn to Breathe Better. Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD): GOLD Guidelines At-A-Glance Desk Reference.

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on December 19, 2007
©2007 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.

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