What to Know About the Flu if You Have Asthma

An article from the UVM Health Network 2019 Flu Education series

Another flu season is right around the corner. A seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to protect against it and any potentially serious complications.

Immunity can take up to two weeks to develop after getting the vaccine, so getting your flu shot and helping to protect your friends, family and loved ones from seasonal influenza is everyone’s responsibility.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year, with rare exceptions. But for some groups, seasonal influenza is particularly dangerous.

Asthma and Flu

Asthma is a lung disease caused by chronic inflammation of the airways, and is one of the most common, long-term diseases among children. People with asthma have swollen and sensitive airways, which puts them at high risk for more serious flu-related complications — in particular further inflammation of the airways and lungs.

Even if your asthma is mild or well-controlled by medication, getting the flu can trigger asthma attacks and worsen your symptoms. Influenza can also lead to pneumonia and other acute respiratory diseases, especially among younger individuals. Among children hospitalized with the flu, asthma is the most common medical condition.

Among elderly persons with chronic lung disease, a three-year study of patients who received the influenza vaccination noted hospitalization rates for pneumonia and influenza reduced by 52% and deaths from all causes reduced by 70%.

Protect Yourself: Get a flu vaccine

Getting a yearly flu vaccine is important for those with asthma. But because of their underlying condition, there is a precaution against using the nasal spray vaccine.

In addition to getting vaccinated, those with asthma can take preventative actions including:

  • Take asthma medication as-directed by your doctor, and know how to use your asthma inhaler if one is prescribed to you.
  • Know and avoid the things that trigger your asthma or can cause an asthma attack.
  • Develop and follow a written Asthma Action Plan with your doctor.
  • If your child has asthma, provide an up-to-date, written Asthma Action Plan to their school or daycare, and ensure their plan and medication are easily accessible when needed.

Be sure to contact your primary care provider to discuss which type of flu vaccination is right for you and learn more about how you can best protect yourself and those around you from seasonal influenza.