Being proactive about preventing health problems is an important part of staying healthy for anyone with lung disease, especially Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. If you watch television you are bombarded with products promising to improve your health. Promises abound but solid evidence is hard to find for most health supplements. So what can you do to improve your chances of staying healthy?
Vaccinations are a very effective tool in preventing infections. For patients with IPF, 4 types of vaccines in particular are important.
1. Influenza (Flu) Vaccination for IPF Patients
Each fall, influenza rolls across the United States. The particular strain of influenza varies from year to year. Each year, the makers of the Influenza Vaccine try and predict which strain will be the most prevalent. The vaccine that is produced usually has a few strains included. Some years the vaccine is a good match and in other years the vaccine is not such a good match. Vaccination is quite effective in preventing severe influenza and moderately effective in preventing all influenza infection. A common misconception is that some people acquire the flu or come down with influenza from the vaccine. This is impossible when using the injected version of the Flu Vaccine. It is very common to have a sore arm and feel achy. However the vaccine contains only inactivated virus and can’t cause infection.
2. Pneumonia Vaccination for Pulmonary Fibrosis
There are two types of pneumonia vaccines for adults. The older version is referred to as Pneumovax or PCV23 and a newer vaccine called Prevnar or PCV13. Both vaccines are designed to prevent pneumonia caused by Pneumococcus, the most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in adults. The vaccines contain proteins found in the bacterial cell walls and generate an immune response that helps prevent infection.
Patients over 18 years of age with any type of increased risk of pneumonia or chronic heart or lung disease are appropriate for Pneumovax. If you are over 65 years, then Prevnar is also indicated. You should wait at least six months between Prevnar and Pneumovax to ensure optimal immune response. A common misconception is that vaccine can cause pneumonia. This is not true. The vaccines contain no live bacteria, only proteins. It is very common to have a sore arm and a low grade fever or feel achy after receiving the vaccine. These symptoms are due to your body making an immune response that will help protect you from pneumonia in the future.
3. Zoster Vaccination (Shingles) for IPF Patients
Shingles is caused by reactivation of the Chicken Pox virus. Anyone who had Chicken Pox as a child has the virus lying dormant in their nerves. As we get older the chance that the virus reactivates increases. When the virus reactivates it does so only in a small area rather than all over your body. Even though the area may be small, the symptoms can be very severe. First there is an itching followed by pain and blisters. The blisters eventually crust over and heal but many patients are left with a burning pain that can persist for months.
The best way to prevent Shingles is to get the Zoster Vaccine. This vaccine reduces the likelihood that you experience a reactivation. In contrast to most other viral vaccines, the Shingles vaccine contains live, weakened virus. This means that anyone who is on medications that weaken the immune system such as prednisone in doses of at least 20mg/day or chemotherapy should not take this vaccine.
The Shingles vaccine (Zostavax) is indicated for adults 60 years or older. It does not matter if you have had a prior episode of Shingles or if you can’t recall if you had Chicken Pox as a child.
4. Pertusis (Whooping Cough) Vaccination For Pulmonary Fibrosis
Over the past five years Whooping Cough has made a strong resurgence across the United States. We have learned that the childhood vaccine begins to lose efficacy as we age. As a result, the CDC now recommends that all adults receive a booster dose of Pertusis vaccine. The recommended vaccine is TDAP (tetanus-diptheria and acellular pertussis). This vaccine has no live bacteria and cannot transmit the infection.