Almost every patient I see in the office this time of year gets an ear full about doing things to help prevent infections during the winter season. The instructions are very low tech but effective. These measures include frequent hand washing, keeping your distance from people who are sick, including little children, and keeping your hands and fingers away from your face, nose and mouth. Other measures include getting a flu vaccination and perhaps the pneumonia vaccine.

Preventing infection helps you accomplish one of the key goals especially for patients with COPD. The key goal I refer to here is keeping you out of the hospital. I recently came across a study that supports these efforts. The study found that for every day you spend in the hospital you acquire a 1% risk of getting a serious drug resistant infection. This risk continues to rise at this rate for 10 days. This is the first time someone has calculated this risk and I find it chilling. Recently, we have been reading about exotic infections like Ebola, but you are much more likely to be exposed to common, but serious, infections in your own home and definitely in the hospital. It is important to do what you can to avoid infections and stay out of the hospital. Should you develop signs of a respiratory tract infection and you have underlying lung disease, such as COPD, seek attention within the first 72 hours. Try and stay out of the hospital.