Pulmonary Hypertension in Cold and Flu Season

Serena Lawrence avatar

by Serena Lawrence |

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colds and PH

In Life with PH

I live in Canada, where autumn has officially approached and is quickly passing. The weather can be a bit of a rollercoaster, fluctuating between jean-jacket weather and parka weather as it tries to decide what season this is. Suddenly it seems like everyone has a cold, making my desire to retreat to my bed (because of the cooler weather and darker days) even stronger.

Having a cold or flu can knock healthy people flat on their butt. Having a cold or flu on top of pulmonary hypertension can be catastrophic. I have had the flu once, despite getting a flu shot, since my diagnosis over three years ago. It was hard to avoid, and I ended up going to emergency because it was my first time even being sick since being diagnosed. I didn’t understand how severely a head or chest cold, or respiratory flu, could affect pulmonary hypertension patients.

It can be really hard not to get sick when it seems like everyone else on the planet has a cold. I went to the mall earlier this week and had to leave every store because all of the employees were sick. I felt like I was on the “Walking Dead,” and trying to avoid getting bit by a zombie. It might sound silly, but being around sick people makes me feel a slight panic. I wouldn’t want someone who has an obvious head cold to make me a cup of tea. Getting sick makes it very difficult for me to breathe (to the point where I require the use of more oxygen), so I am not afraid of looking a little silly to prevent the cold or flu.

Here are some the steps I take to try and avoid catching a cold:

PH and colds

Wearing a surgical mask at one of my checkups.

• Explaining my situation to friends and family. I have told everyone that I cannot be nearby if they are sick, or coming down with a cold. It is simply too dangerous for me to be exposed to a cold or flu, because of the havoc it causes to my respiratory system.

• Wearing a surgical face mask whenever I go to the doctors, or a hospital, clinic, lab, etc.

• Sanitizing hands after touching things used by the public, such as a debit machine or door handle.

• Using a tissue or sleeve to open doors, turn on taps, etc., in public.

• When cooler weather approaches, wearing leather gloves (even inside malls) to open doors, use debit machines, and so on. It helps minimize direct contact with items that are heavily used by the general public.

• Never placing cell phone on a restaurant or public table.

• Sanitizing my cell phone if I used it a lot in public, especially at a hospital.

• Drinking cold-pressed juice when I am feeling rundown. (Make sure you find a cold-pressed juice that will not interfere with any of your medications. For example, kale is high in vitamin K, so it might lessen the affects of blood thinners.)

• Keeping active. It can be difficult to stay active in colder weather. To accommodate, I try to do Pilates and yoga inside when possible. I also try to get up and walk around the house for 10 to 20 minutes if I have been sitting for a while.

• Maintaining a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and veggies, avoiding pre-packaged and artificial food.

• Having a cup of organic green or white tea. Tea is high in antioxidants, which can help fight off free radicals. White tea is generally lower in caffeine than green tea for anyone who is caffeine sensitive.

• Taking supplements and/or vitamins. Talk to your pulmonary hypertension specialist to see if there are any vitamins or supplements that would be safe for you to take and would help you get extra nutrients.

• Getting a flu shot. Ask to your medical care provider if it would be safe for you to get the flu shot. The flu shot helps prevent the predicted top three strains of the flu for the upcoming winter season.

Do you have any tips on the things you do to reduce the risk of the cold and flu?

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


Pete Duffy avatar

Pete Duffy

Yet again another brilliant post. Well done I have learned a thing or two from this.

Serena Lawrence avatar

Serena Lawrence

Thanks so much, Pete! :)

Joanne Cheairs avatar

Joanne Cheairs

I thought I was being silly washing my hands whenever I came home from the doctors or shopping. I carry hand sanitizer (small purse size and have several bottles o-in the bedrooms, bath and kitchen.

Serena Lawrence avatar

Serena Lawrence

Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent spreading germs! It is always the first thing I do when I come home from anywhere. Not a silly habit at all!

Beth avatar


I have pulmonary arterial hypertension and I was just sick a month ago with an upper respiratory infection. Now I feel another cold coming on. I work in a call center which is basically a petri dish. Any tips for that?

Serena Lawrence avatar

Serena Lawrence

Hi Beth,

When I still worked at my office job I had to share one phone with one employee who got sick nearly every other week. We were located inside of a university health clinic, so we were constantly exposed to germs.

To avoid catching her flu/cold, I had a box of non-latex gloves and a box of anti-bacterial wipes. Before each one of my shifts I would glove up and wipe down everything I would be using that day. I would wipe down arm chairs, my entire computer desk, mouse, keyboard, pen, stapler, drawer handles, and the entire phone. I found this really helped because I never caught a cold from her!

It may sound a little extreme, but I let my staff know about my health issues -- so we were all cautious about sanitizing things (like the lunch table, microwave, fax machine etc.) I also used tissues or clothes to open bathroom doors etc to help limit my exposure to germs.

I hope you have some success with these tips (if you haven't tried them already, of course.) The smallest cold can be really hard to cope with and get over with PH.


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