If you’re living with asthma, you know there are several triggers that can make it worse. From tobacco smoke and dust to mold and pets. Did you know infections like influenza can also trigger your asthma? During the wintertime, there is a higher risk of getting influenza. There are certain steps and tips that you can take to make sure you do not trigger an asthma attack during this time.
Asthma is the chronic inflammation of the airways. It is highly prevalent in children and usually develops during childhood but adults can also develop it later in life. The airways are more sensitive to certain things and these are referred to as triggers. These triggers inflame the airways causing them to swell and tighten. When an asthma attack happens, a person experiences wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Properly using medication and shying away from known triggers can help prevent asthma attacks.
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Asthma increases your risk of developing serious flu complications. Even if you have mild asthma and are well controlled, you are still at risk of these complications. Asthma causes the swelling and an increase in sensitivity in the airways. With a flu infection, it causes further inflammation of the airways and lungs. It can trigger a worsening of asthma symptoms and even an asthma attack. It can also lead to pneumonia and other acute respiratory diseases. The risk of developing these conditions is higher in adults and childer with asthma than without.
The CDC, center of disease control, highlights the importance of asthma sufferers to have the flu vaccine because asthma sufferers are at high risk of developing flu complications. This does not mean that you just need one flu vaccine once in your life. Flu vaccines need to be updated every year as the influenza strains change to keep up with the new strains. Immunity also wanes over a year so renewing vaccination every year will ensure you get the best protection you need against the infection.
Injectable influenza vaccine
This is also called a flu shot. This injectable vaccine is approved for use by children older than 6 months and older, regardless of if they have asthma or not. These flu shots are deemed safe for everyone, even for individuals with an egg allergy
Tips to prevent the flu
Other than getting the flu vaccination, there are other steps and precautions to take to prevent getting the flu. If you know of someone who is sick with the flu, try and minimize or even avoid contact with them. The flu is transferred through the air and is easily passed from person to person. Hand hygiene is also very important. By washing your hands, it kills the germs that cause this respiratory infection. Carrying a bottle of hand sanitizer around makes it easier to kill these germs on the go! As much as you would want to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth, try and avoid this as much as you can. These areas as points where germs can enter your body. Be protective of your inhaler. Do not share it with others as this can facilitate the spreading of the germs.
What to do if you get the flu?
Despite all the precautions and care you take, an occasional case of the flu is inevitable, especially in children. These are some things you can do to help you if you find yourself in this situation:
- Asthma action plan - Asthma sufferers are encouraged to make an asthma action plan. If you notice an asthma attack coming on - wheezing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath - follow your action plan. Adjust your medications accordingly.
- Rest and rejuvenate - A key thing to fighting the flu is rest and hydrations. There are some over-the-counter flu medications you can take to help you feel better, but make sure to clear this with your doctor first. This will not have to fight the flu but will help you feel a little more like yourself.
- Monitor your airflow - You will probably have a peak flow meter and diary at home. When you get ill, use the peak flow meter to monitor how well your lungs are working. Record your reading at the same time every day. It will help you monitor if your symptoms are worsening and can help you tackle it before it gets worse.
- Seek treatment - If you notice your symptoms such as severe breathing problems or if your throat feels extremely sore, seek treatment immediately. If you’re experiencing any symptoms of pneumonia such as high fever, chills, sweats, and sharp pain when taking in breaths, it is important to seek help right away.
If you live in a cold climate for a large part of the year, there is a chance you might get the flu at some point. There are steps and measure you can take to reduce the chance of contracting this infection. The most important step is to make sure you stay up to date on your flu vaccinations.
- 1.CDC. Common Asthma Triggers. [Online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/triggers.html
- 2.Veerapandian R, Snyder JD, Samarasinghe AE. Influenza in Asthmatics: For Better or for Worse? Frontiers in Immunology. [Online] 2018;9. Available from: doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.01843
- 3.Mayo Clinic. Asthma: Limit asthma attacks caused by colds or flu. [Online] Mayo Clinic. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma-attack/in-depth/asthma/art-20043943
- 4.CDC. Flu and People with Asthma | CDC. [Online] www.cdc.gov. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/asthma.htm [Accessed: 12th July 2020]