Do you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)? The annual flu vaccine can be a lifesaver for you.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term used to describe progressive lung diseases including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory (non-reversible) asthma. In emphysema the tiny, delicate air sacs (alveoli) in your lungs are damaged so it is harder to get oxygen in and carbon dioxide (the waste product of your breathing) out. In chronic bronchitis, the breathing tubes (bronchial airways) inside your lungs are inflamed, the airways swollen and clogged limiting airflow in and out of your lungs. In refractory (non-reversible) asthma, usual asthma medications cannot reverse the tightening and swelling of the airways. In all these cases, it is hard to breathe. A person with COPD has poor lung function and often takes medications such as chronic steroids and certain types of inhalers, which may decrease the ability of the immune system and the upper respiratory tract to fight off infection.

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Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who received the seasonal influenza vaccine had a 38% reduction in influenza-related hospitalizations compared with those who were unvaccinated. The findings are based on a study published in Chest. The study looked at the vaccination status of 4,198 COPD patients hospitalized with any acute respiratory illness or exacerbation from 2011 to 2015 at 46 hospitals in Canada. The study showed that the seasonal flu vaccine reduced influenza-related hospitalizations among patients with COPD by 37.5% (95% confidence interval, 27.3% to 46.2%) compared with patients who have not been vaccinated. Influenza-positive patients were more likely to suffer from severe infections and mortality if they were over 75 years old, had cardiac problems, or were living in long-term care facilities.

“COPD can flare up when triggered by the flu, making the infection worse”, explained lead researcher Dr. Sunita Mulpuru, a scientist at Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada. “Approximately one in 10 pass away, and one in five develop critical illness requiring admission to the intensive care unit,” Mulpuru added.

Although it’s too early to tell how bad this year’s flu season will be, the last season sent nearly one million Americans to the hospital and killed 80,000  — more than the number killed in traffic collisions, gun violence, or opioid overdoses. In previous seasons, flu-related deaths have ranged from a low of about 12,000 during the 2011 – 2012 season to a high of about 56,000 during the 2012 – 2013.