If you have asthma, you should do all you can to stay healthy. With asthma, any respiratory infection, including the flu, can affect your lungs, causing inflammation and airway narrowing.
About 5% to 20% of Americans get the flu each year. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized, according to the CDC. And since the 1970s, between 3,000 and 49,000 people have died from the flu each year. This is largely due to other infections and complications that can occur when you have the flu, particularly pneumonia.
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People with lung problems, including those with asthma, are at higher risk of respiratory problems associated with flu. A flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu and subsequent respiratory problems associated with it, including a worsening of asthma symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of the Flu and Asthma?
Call your doctor if you experience flu or asthma attack symptoms, including:
Increased shortness of breath or wheezing
Coughing up increased amounts of mucus
Yellow- or green-colored mucus
Fever (temperature over 101 degrees Fahrenheit) or chills
Fatigue or weakness
Sore throat, scratchy throat, or pain when swallowing
Sinus drainage, nasal congestion, headache, or tenderness along your upper cheekbones
Call 911 if you are having trouble breathing.
What Should I Do if I Have Asthma and Get the Flu?
If you have symptoms of flu, call your doctor immediately for advice on how to prevent your asthma symptoms from worsening. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medicine to help reduce your flu symptoms and make changes to your asthma action plan.
Make sure you follow the instructions in your written asthma action plan to self-manage asthma and keep asthma symptoms controlled. In addition, continue to check your peak flow rate to make sure your breathing is in the safe zone.
How Can I Prevent Infections That Trigger Asthma?
There are steps you can take to help prevent infections that can trigger asthma symptoms:
Wash your hands. Good hygiene can decrease your chance of viral infections such as the flu. Remember to wash your hands frequently throughout the day to get rid of germs that linger on your hands.
Get a flu shot. Check with your health care provider about receiving a flu shot every year. In addition, discuss the possibility of getting a pneumonia vaccine. Pneumococcus is a common cause of bacterial pneumonia, an illness that can be particularly serious in a person with asthma.
Prevent sinusitis. Be aware of the symptoms of a sinus infection and report them immediately to your doctor to help prevent asthma attacks.
Don't share asthma medication or equipment. Do not let others use your asthma drugs or equipment, including your asthma inhaler, asthma nebulizer, and nebulizer tubing and mouthpiece.