COPD: Can viruses cause the disease?

If an individual has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), the flu and common cold can make one very sick. Based on studies conducted, there is a possibility that viruses might play a role in how chronic respiratory disease such as COPD develops in the first place. Even though further studies are required, there are measures to keep the lungs healthy at any phase.

Lasting effects of short-term infections if an individual has COPD

COPD steadily impairs the lungs over time. If an individual has frequent episodes of flu or common cold as a child, the lung function might worsen and there are increased breathing issues as an adult. If an individual has COPD and acquires these conditions, the symptoms often worsen rapidly.

COPD

If an individual has frequent episodes of flu or common cold as a child, the lung function might worsen and there are increased breathing issues as an adult

Generally, the immune system acts to fight the viruses and settles after getting rid of the threat. As for those with the condition, the inflammation after an infection does not settle. It is important to note that certain cells release an inflammatory chemical specifically interleukin-13 which tends to linger. If an individual smoke or exposed to another risk factor, these cells are reactivated. The production of mucus is increased and causes lung damage that is characteristic of COPD.

How to stay healthy

Avoidance of infections can help the individual breathe easier if he/she has the condition. A doctor must be consulted regarding pneumonia or flu shots to prevent these infections. Other measures to protect the lungs include the following:

  • Avoid being exposed to sick individuals as much as possible.
  • Regularly wash hands. If water and soap is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizing gel.
  • Get in touch with a doctor if the symptoms of flu are suspected. These can include fever, chest tightness and increased coughing. Antiviral medications might be prescribed by the doctor to alleviate the symptoms and prevent flare-ups.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on COPD is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage respiratory conditions including COPD, register for a first aid and CPR course with Edmonton First Aid.

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