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, and about 3,000 to 49,000 people die, according to the CDC. This is largely due to other infections and complications that can occur when you have the flu, particularly pneumonia.
Questions & Answers about the 2009–2010 Flu Season
What sort of flu season is expected this year?
Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways, including the timing of
the beginning, severity, and length of the flu season.
This flu season (2009-2010), there are more uncertainties than usual because
of the emergence of a new 2009 H1N1
influenza virus (previously called "novel H1N1" or "swine flu") that has
caused the first influenza pandemic (global outbreak of disease) in more than
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, difficulty breathing, 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
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 asthma specialist 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.
What Types of Flu Vaccines Are Available?
Two types of flu vaccine exist, a shot and a nasal spray.