Managing and controlling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is always important, and especially given the pandemic in the backdrop individuals living with a chronic lung disease are at a higher risk of severe illness and complications from COVID-19. However, misinformation about COVID-19 has made it hard for people with chronic conditions to determine how to stay safe.

Here is what you should know. Patients with COPD are highly susceptible from respiratory exacerbations from viral respiratory tract infections. So, when the COVID pandemic took us by storm, these patients were said to be more at risk of COVID-19 pneumonia or COVID-19-related mortality. However, with the more than 20 months into the pandemic, researchers are yet to establish the adverse COVID-19 outcomes in COPD patients. Having said that, in our clinical experience, a diagnosis of COPD significantly increases the odds in patients with COVID. Therefore, it is important for all COPD patients be considered a high-risk group and advised preventative measures and aggressive treatment for COVID-19 including vaccination.

There are a few things you can do. The best way to avoid illness, regardless of age or health status, is avoiding exposure to the virus. This becomes even pressing for individuals living with COPD. Stringent adherence to the safety precautions is vital. This means staying home as much as possible and avoiding potential exposure to the virus. When in public, maintain social distance of at least six feet from people and wear a N-95 mask. Also, wash your hands often and clean, then disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

Also, vaccination is key. Vaccines are developed to help a person’s immune system recognize and protect the body against certain infections. Vaccination can help in building immunity and in controlling severe disease if infected with COVID. Apart from this, continue controller medications for COPD to maintain lung health. Don’t delay important visits or ignore flare-ups or new symptoms. COPD complications can become serious if left untreated. Moreover, taking medication correctly is a major component in successfully controlling chronic lung diseases. Nebulized therapy continues to be a safe and effective way to take inhaled medications at home during the pandemic.

Above all, eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water can also help to support the body and remove excess mucus from the lungs. Add more Vitamin C and adequate proteins to your diet, along with moderate exercise as tolerated. Avoid crowded places and don’t forget to wear a mask while venturing out. Remember, if you develop symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor who will advise what to do.

The author is a consultant-Pulmonologist & Sleep Medicine Expert, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital.