Asthma and flu

What is the risk of flu if I have asthma?

Asthma is a common condition that affects the lungs. It causes the airways to become tighter and inflamed, making breathing harder than it should be. Asthma is usually controlled with inhalers; a blue one for instant relief and a brown-coloured preventer type for everyday use. In severe cases, an asthma attack may occur. This causes you to be too breathless to speak or catch your breath and immediate medical attention is needed. 

There are lots of different possible triggers that can make your asthma worse, including illnesses like the flu. 

The Flu Virus 

The flu is the common term for the influenza virus. This is a viral infection that is similar to the common cold but causes more severe symptoms. It can be treated at home with rest, plenty of fluids and painkillers like Paracetamol, Ibuprofen and Lemsip and you’ll usually feel better after a week. The symptoms include: 

  • A high temperature 
  • Aches and pains 
  • Exhaustion and tiredness 
  • Coughing 
  • Sore throat
  • Headache 
  • Diarrhoea 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Stomach pain 
  • Lack of appetite 

Is the flu dangerous? 

The flu isn’t usually anything to worry about and can be treated at home with ease. Certain groups of people are susceptible to further complications from the flu, however. These high-risk groups include: 

  • Young children 
  • Elderly people over 65
  • Pregnant women 
  • People with a weak immune system 
  • People with a long term medical condition 

In these cases, you’ll be offered an annual flu vaccination to prevent you from catching the flu virus. 

Am I more likely to get the flu if I have asthma?

Having asthma doesn’t mean you’re more susceptible to getting the flu. Viruses like the cold and flu can trigger your asthma and may make symptoms worse, as the flu will increase the production of mucus and the inflammation of the airways. Some people with asthma may be able to get the flu vaccine, depending on the severity of your condition and any other risk factors you may have. 

How can I prevent the flu if I have asthma? 

The best way to prevent the flu virus is by getting the flu vaccine. This is freely available from your GP or pharmacist for the following people: 

  • Pregnant women 
  • Those over 65
  • Overweight individuals whose BMI is over 40
  • Those with a long-term medical condition 
  • Anyone with a weakened immune system 
  • Children aged 2-5 and all primary-school-age children 

Other steps you can take include: 

  • Ensuring your medication and asthma action plan is up to date, seeing your doctor for a review
  • Wash your hands regularly 
  • Avoiding sharing towels or household items with anyone who has the flu or symptoms of the flu 
  • Take proper care of yourself, getting enough sleep, nutrition and fluids 
  • Use your preventer inhaler every day if you have one 
  • Make sure you always have your reliever inhaler with you 

View all asthma treatments

Sources: 

Asthma UK> Colds and Flu
NHS> Flu
NHS Inform> Flu

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