Asthma and Flu
What Types of Flu Vaccines Are Available?
Two types of flu vaccine exist - a shot and a nasal spray.
Flu shots don't contain a live virus and cannot cause the flu. The nasal flu vaccine, called FluMist, contains weakened flu viruses, and does not cause flu. People with asthma should receive the flu shot vaccine, not FluMist. The nasal flu vaccine is recommended only for healthy individuals ages 2 to 49 who have no chronic medical problems and are not pregnant.
Other options include:
- Intradermal shots use smaller needles that only go into the top layer of the skin instead of the muscle. They are available for those ages 18 to 64.
- Egg-free vaccines are now available for those ages 18 to 49 who have severe egg allergies.
- High-dose vaccines are meant for the elderly and may better protect them from the flu.
How Do Flu Vaccines Work in People With Asthma?
Flu vaccines work the same way for everyone, including those with asthma. They cause antibodies to develop in your body. These antibodies provide protection against infection from the flu. This antibody reaction may cause fatigue and muscle aches in some people.
Each year, the flu vaccine contains several different kinds of flu viruses. The strains chosen are the ones that researchers think are most likely to show up that year. If the choice is right, the flu vaccine is about 60% effective in preventing the flu. However, the vaccine is less effective in older people and those with a weakened immune system.
Who Should Get the Flu Vaccine?
The CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older be vaccinated each year against the flu. There are several groups in whom the flu vaccine is particularly important. These people are either at a higher risk for complications from the flu themselves, or are around people who are at high risk for flu complications. These include:
- Women who are pregnant
- Children under age 5 -- especially those under age 2
- Adults ages 50 and older
- Adults and children with chronic health conditions, including asthma
- Caregivers to those at risk for flu-related complications, including health care workers and caregivers to very young children
- Older people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
When Should People With Asthma Get the Flu Vaccine?
Flu season may begin as early as October and run through May. If you have asthma, the best time to get the flu vaccine is as soon as it is available, ideally by October. But getting vaccinated in January or later still can be beneficial if the flu virus is still around. It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to become fully effective in preventing the flu.