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(NC) The holidays can be a stressful time of year for anyone; kids are off school, in-laws are in town, and there's always last minute shopping or gift wrapping to be done. With all the celebrations and visits with friends and family, it's no surprise more people contract contagious infections like the cold or flu around this time of year. This can be particularly worrisome if you are one of the more than 770,000 Canadians who have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Research shows that COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is the leading cause of hospitalization among major chronic illnesses and this frequency peaks during the holiday season1. In order to help ensure you can spend the holidays at home, and not in the ER, it's important to recognize when your COPD symptoms worsen, often referred to as a lung attack. If you notice any significant change like increased coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing or an unusual change in phlegm, contact your physician. Discuss your worsening symptoms and also ask if your medication needs an adjustment.

In order to avoid a potential lung attack, keep these tips in mind:

1. Hands off: The majority of people contract infections from touching their face. In order to limit your likelihood of catching a cold that could worsen your COPD symptoms, wash your hands regularly and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

2. Don't stray from your routine: It's easy to slip away from your normal routine during the holiday season, but it's important to continue to take all your regular medications as prescribed.

3. Take precautions: Make it a priority to get a flu shot and talk to your doctor about creating a COPD action plan. This plan will ensure you take the right action if your symptoms flare-up, helping to reduce your risk of hospitalization.


1 Johnson NW, McIvor A, Lambert K, et al. The Christmas season as a risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations. Can Respir J 2010;17;275-81.

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