People who suffer from asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) are at higher risk of severe H1N1 symptoms or complications. This is because, unlike the normal flu which usually stays in the upper respiratory tract, the H1N1 flu has been shown to affect the entire respiratory system. It infects the breathing tubes in the nose, throat and lungs. Those with asthma and COPD and other lung-related issues (cystic fibrosis, emphysema) are among those on the high priority lists for H1N1 vaccination clinics because of this reason.
If you are one of those patients with a respiratory disease - particularly asthma or COPD - you need to be extra vigilant about your health in the upcoming months.
H1N1 Flu Symptoms
To review, H1N1 flu symptoms are very similar to regular flu symptoms, but are usually quick in onset and more severe.
- fever (above 103 that lasts for three or four days)
- sore throat
- body aches
- runny nose
- chills (moderate to severe)
- loss of appetite
- nausea, vomiting, diarrhea (not associated with regular flu)
- fatigue (moderate to severe)
What You Need to Do
Beyond getting the H1N1 vaccination, if you have asthma or COPD, your focus needs to be on prevention.
Make sure you and everyone around you washes their hands or uses an alcohol-based hand sanitizer;
Avoid contact with sick people and if you are around them, make sure that they know to not touch their nose, mouth, and eyes and then touch other surfaces that you will touch; Have them sneeze into their sleeve to prevent saliva and other fluids from spreading germs.
Disinfect commonly touched surfaces - counter tops, faucets (taps), toys, keyboards, doorknobs, handles (coffee pot, refrigerator, microwave), telephones, desks and tabletops.
Keep yourself healthy - get enough sleep, eat healthy food and exercise
Take your preventative medications. Some asthmatics and COPD sufferers forget or don't take them regularly as prescribed.
Have an extra supply of medications on hand.