How To Avoid The Flu If You Have Asthma

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By Zoe Camp

girlappleBad news, folks – Flu season is here. As usual, experts are urging consumers to get vaccinated, but between school, work, and everything else, it can be difficult to find time to get a flu shot. Indeed, it’s easy to fall into a “hope for the best” mindset, which usually works pretty well – that is, until you’re bedridden with all the miserable flu fix ins’.

If you have asthma, however, you’ve got a lot more to worry about. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asthmatics face an increased risk of complications from the flu, including acute asthma attacks, a worsening of symptoms, and even pneumonia. Blame biology – people with asthma have swollen, sensitive airways, which doesn’t pair well with an inflammatory disease like the flu. Therefore, if you have asthma, COPD, or any other respiratory condition, it’s imperative that you take extra precautions to keep yourself healthy. Here are four steps you can take to reduce your risk.

Get a Flu Shot

The CDC urges everyone with asthma who is six months and older to get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine drastically reduces the chances of contracting the flu virus, and is available pretty much everywhere, including the doctors’ office, pharmacies (including those found at large chains like Target), and schools. Although the Flu-Mist nasal spray vaccine is becoming more popular, the CDC recommends that it not be used by asthmatics.

Limit Your Contact With the Virus

Wash your hands. A lot. If you can, try not to touch your mouth, eyes or nose (major germ highways). And if you’re sick (and can’t stay home), cough into your sleeve and (surprise!) wash your hands even more.

Revisit Your (Or your Loved Ones’) Asthma Action Plan

While you’re at the doctor’s office (getting your vaccine, of course), go over your (or your child’s) Asthma Action Plan – and if you don’t have one yet, make one. Asthma Action Plans are essential for ensuring you receive the proper treatment in case symptoms develop.

If You’re Sick, Take It Easy

If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms – high fever, cough, muscle aches or chills – stay home from work/school to avoid creating more misery for yourself and others. Eat a well-balanced diet, get lots of sleep, and anti-viral medications as prescribed. If you use a nebulizer, make sure you have extra neb-kits and supplies on hand.

If you have chronic respiratory issues and would like more information on how to stay safe this flu season, check out the CDC’s online resources. May your fall be fun and flu-free!

– Zoe Camp is an avid blogger for and a student at Columbia University who spends her time researching and writing about pulmonary health issues, specifically asthma.