Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and the Common Cold

Spring is just around the corner, but the sicknesses winter brings are not quite ready to quit for the season. No one likes to be sick and the side effects that are often accompanying. But for those living with COPD, it’s a lot more difficult and miserable. Here’s what you need to know about COPD and the common cold

COPD and the Common Cold

A cold can take its toll on anyone but colds are elevated when you have COPD. When you have COPD, breathing is already difficult because the lung’s airways are damaged. A cold worsens this and can cause an increase in phlegm, it's color and consistency, blood can become present in phlegm, elevated shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing intensifies, poor sleep and increased fatigue, and an overall ill feeling.

Why It’s Serious

Illnesses like the common cold are often responsible for worsened or intensified COPD and its side effects. It can even lead to bacterial infections like pneumonia. This can happen because of an obstructed airway which does not allow for the infection and mucus to be coughed up. These incidents can sometimes cause a person with COPD to be hospitalized. Treatment then required and can include a medication inhaler, oxygen therapy, and/or antibiotics (only to treat a bacterial infection if one is present). It is critical to communicate with your doctor about worsening cold symptoms. Don’t wait until there’s a serious problem. It’s best to address it sooner than later.

Treating the Illness with COPD

It’s important to keep taking care of yourself the same way you would if you didn’t have a cold. Continue using your doctor prescribed medications and care instructions given to you by your doctor. It is best to talk to your doctor if you are concerned, question, or unsure about anything. They may suggest using acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat cold or flu symptoms. Most OTC medications used to treat the common cold and other illnesses are typically safe for those with COPD. Please note that decongestants can raise blood pressure, as do some medications used to treat COPD. Be cautious here, especially if you have high blood pressure or any heart conditions as well as COPD. Again, it is best to talk with your doctor about medications for you and your specific situation and condition.


Whether you have COPD or not, it is always good to follow these tips and suggestions:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
  • Avoid anyone with a known illness as well as crowds during cold and flu season.
  • Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet, drink lots of water, and exercise regularly.
  • Do not smoke and avoid second-hand smoke and any other air pollutants.
  • Continue to use your medication as you should.
  • Talk to your doctor about getting the flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine.
  • Talk to your doctor as soon as possible regarding sinus issues.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns. Better to be safe than sorry.