- Asthma Canada
- Are Flu Vaccine Side Effects More ly for People With Asthma?
- Asthma Treatment and the Flu Shot – Asthma Health Center
- Flu Shots for People with Asthma, COPD
- Asthma and Flu
- If You Have Asthma, Avoiding The Flu Shot Can Actually Be a Deadly Mistake
- Asthma and the flu
- Do I Need the Flu Shot If I Have Asthma?
- 4 Debunked Myths About Living with Asthma During Cold and Flu Season
Asthma and Influenza: What You Need to Know
Influenza, also known as the seasonal flu, is an unpredictable and highly contagious viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs. These viruses travel through air droplets when an infected individual coughs, sneezes or talks. It can spread when someone inhales the air droplets or touches infected objects, transferring germs.
- The most vulnerable in our society are the most at risk from influenza: children, the elderly and persons with chronic health conditions, diabetes, cardiac or pulmonary disorders and asthma
- In fact, individuals with chronic health conditions such as asthma have the highest risk for influenza-related complications
- Between 500-1,500 Canadians die each year from pneumonia complications related to influenza
- Although the burden of influenza can vary from year to year, it is estimated that, in a given year, an average of 12,200 hospitalizations related to influenza and approximately 3,500 deaths attributable to influenza occur
Effects on Individuals with Asthma
- Adults and children with asthma are more ly to develop pneumonia after getting sick with influenza than people who do not have asthma
- An influenza infection in the lungs can trigger asthma attacks and a worsening of asthma symptoms, which can also lead to pneumonia and other acute respiratory diseases
- Asthma is the most common medical condition among children hospitalized with influenza and one of the more common medical conditions among hospitalized adults
- If you get sick with influenza symptoms, call your doctor as treatment should begin as soon as possible because antiviral drug treatment works best when started early
Minimizing Your Risk of Contracting Influenza
Health Canada recommends that the best way to prevent influenza is by getting a flu shot. Dr. Susan Waserman, Chair of the Medical and Scientific Committee of Asthma Canada, especially encourages people with asthma and their families to get a flu shot yearly to help prevent complications with their chronic condition.
“Flu shots are recommended annually to help reduce the frequency of asthma exacerbations, as viral and upper respiratory tract infections can both cause asthma episodes and make people with asthma more sensitive to asthma triggers.”
It’s also important that anyone who is a caregiver or health worker for vulnerable populations should take the flu shot to protect themselves and those they care for. A High Dose flu shot should be taken by those 65 years of age and older.
Influenza vaccines work by stimulating the body to make antibodies against the influenza virus within about two weeks after vaccination.
Antibodies against influenza help provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.
Vaccination is important for people with asthma because influenza can cause further inflammation to their airways and lungs. Some influenza vaccine options include:
- A four-strain influenza vaccine has been introduced as part of Canada’s public health immunization programs
- Different than three-strain influenza vaccines (TIV), the four-strain (or quadrivalent) influenza vaccine (QIV) protects against four different influenza virus strains: two influenza A strains and two influenza B strains
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that QIV be used where available
- Older adults can suffer the most severe consequences of influenza
- Adults 65 years and older typically experience 70% of hospitalizations and 90% of deaths due to influenza
- While most people can recover from influenza in as few as seven days, it generally takes longer for seniors to recover, and they may be at higher risk of developing more severe complications, including pneumonia or worsening underlying medical conditions
- The High Dose influenza vaccine has been demonstrated in a large, randomized controlled trial to be more than 24% more effective than a standard-dose vaccine in adults 65 years of age and older against the flu
Getting vaccinated is your best defense against the flu – for you and those around you. For more information about the annual flu vaccination, and whether four-strain of High Dose vaccine is available in your province, speak to your doctor, pharmacist or local Public Health authority.
Are Flu Vaccine Side Effects More ly for People With Asthma?
FRANCOIS GUILLOT / Getty Images
You've probably heard that the flu shot is recommended if you have asthma. But, are people with asthma more ly to experience flu vaccine side effects?
In general, people with asthma should get the flu vaccine, unless there is a reason not to, such as a history of Guillain Barre syndrome. For many years, there was also concern that people with egg allergies should not get the flu shot, but that no longer is the case. Talk with your doctor, though, if you are still concerned.
So, why do so many people with asthma (roughly half) skip their annual flu shots? One reason is the concern that the flu shot could cause a worsening of asthma. Another is that people may not think they are at risk.
Given the statistics, however, there is a good chance of contracting flu. Each year in the United States, there are between 9.2 and 35.
6 million cases of influenza, 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000 to 56,000 deaths.
Some people are afraid to get the flu shot if a family member is immunosuppressed or on chemotherapy. But, this is not a problem with the injectable flu shot (the live attenuated flu vaccine, such as FluMist or Fluenz, should be avoided.) Conversely, failing to get a flu shot can put your loved ones at risk and vice versa.
So, we're left with two questions for discussion:
- How bad is it if you catch the flu when you have asthma?
- Are people with asthma more ly to have side effects from the vaccine?
People with asthma are no more ly to get the flu than people without asthma, but they are more ly to experience complications. Influenza can work both to trigger asthma symptoms in the first place and to worsen asthma symptoms you are already dealing with.
Catching the flu when you have asthma also raises your risk of pneumonia, especially if you are a child or older adult. Influenza is clearly more dangerous if you have asthma, but is the vaccine more of a problem as well?
We have known that the inactivated flu vaccine—just one of the flu shots—does not increase asthma exacerbations in the two weeks following vaccination.
At one time, it was even thought that the live attenuated nasal spray vaccine (FluMist or Fluenz) might be associated with wheezing. (The package insert warns against giving the vaccine to young children with asthma or anyone with recent episodes of wheezing.
) More recent studies, however, seem to suggest that neither the flu shot or FluMist increase the risk of asthma exacerbations.
In one 2017 study following almost 400,000 flu immunizations given to children age two and older, the risk of asthma exacerbation was not increased for children who received either the inactivated influenza vaccine or the live attenuated influenza vaccine.
Another 2017 study that evaluated a population base of 6.3 million people came to a similar conclusion.
It was found that while the live attenuated flu vaccine was used less than one percent of the time—and primarily for those with mild persistent asthma or intermittent asthma—it did not appear to increase the risk of asthma exacerbations. this study, there was no increase in any type of respiratory adverse events for those receiving the live vaccine.
Despite these studies, some physicians recommend that children and adults with asthma receive the flu shot vaccine rather than the nasal spray vaccine. The shot (specifically Flu-Zone High dose or the traditional flu shot rather than the intradermal shot) appears to be more effective than the nasal spray for those with serious medical conditions or the elderly.
While some people with asthma will report mild symptoms, such as a sore throat, cough, and hoarseness after getting a flu vaccination, the virus in the inactivated vaccine is killed, so it can't give anyone the flu.
In contrast, the nasal spray flu vaccine is a live, though attenuated, virus. Even with the live, weakened form of the virus in FluMist, the virus is scientifically unable to cause the flu.
Moreover, just as with all medical treatments, there are potential side effects of the flu vaccine. Some of the minor flu vaccine side effects include:
- Pain at the injection site
- Malaise (just feeling poorly overall)
- Myalgias (muscle aches)
Generally, these side effects occur within several hours to a few days after the vaccine and will resolve on their own.
Anaphylaxis (a serious allergic reaction) is a rare, but a life-threatening reaction that may occur after receiving a flu vaccination. While it occurs in only one one million vaccinations, you will need to see an allergist if this occurs or if you develop any worsening of your asthma after getting vaccinated.
Since anaphylaxis in response to the flu shot is very uncommon, we aren't certain whether it is more common in people with asthma. If you have any symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as shortness of breath, swelling of your mouth, tongue, or neck, wheezing, lightheadedness, or a feeling of impending doom, seek medical attention immediately.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone with asthma who does not have a contraindication. Contracting the flu can be very dangerous for people with asthma, increasing the risk of pneumonia, hospitalization, or even death.
The flu vaccine itself, however, does not appear to be any more dangerous for people with asthma than those without the condition, though some physicians recommend getting the flu shot rather than the nasal spray vaccine. Making sure family and friends of a person with asthma are vaccinated is helpful as well.
Asthma Treatment and the Flu Shot – Asthma Health Center
From October to March, health care workers remind us: “Get your flu shot!” And people with asthma should pay special attention to this reminder. Why? A flu shot dramatically cuts their risk of asthma-related complications from the flu.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized with the flu and about 36,000 die from it. Because influenza is caused by a virus, taking an antibiotic won’t help. So once you have the flu, you just have to endure the symptoms. And they are not pleasant: fever, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, cough, sore throat, and a runny nose
The best way to protect yourself from getting the flu is to get a flu shot. Full protection from the flu doesn't usually kick in until about two weeks after you get the flu shot, so plan ahead.
Flu Shot Recommendations for People With Asthma
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends the “inactivated influenza vaccine” for people who have asthma. This is the flu shot that is commonly available at:
- Health fairs
- Community centers
- Urgent care clinics
- Your doctor's office
- Pharmacies and other retail outlets
The vaccine is called “inactivated” because there is no live virus in it that could make you sick. If you do come down with a respiratory infection after getting a flu shot, it's probably just a coincidence and not a reaction to the shot itself.
While a flu shot does not treat asthma, it can reduce your risk of getting one of the more ly strains of the flu virus in a given year.
People with asthma can have serious respiratory complications if they get the flu, so it is important to try to prevent it in the first place.
In fact, research has shown that getting a flu shot can cut your risk of asthma symptoms during flu season by between 22 and 41 percent.
When people with asthma get the flu, their asthma tends to get worse. Acute bronchitis, which may commonly follow a bout with the flu, often leads to a seemingly never-ending cough and can aggravate your asthma, experts say.
“People who are asthmatic, when they get bronchitis, especially viral bronchitis %#133; [their] asthma [becomes] much worse,” explains Richard Castriotta, MD, professor of medicine and associate director of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
Flu Shot for Children with Asthma
“All children should get the influenza vaccine,” says Miles Weinberger, MD, professor of pediatrics and director of the Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Division at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. But don’t assume that your child’s doctor will suggest it.
One recent study found that only half of doctors recommended a flu shot for children with asthma. So, as a parent, you need to educate yourself about this vaccine.
This same study, done by researchers at Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, showed that the more parents learned about flu shots, the more kids got the vaccine.
There is good reason for children with asthma to get vaccinated against the flu — data suggests that if every child with asthma got a flu shot, visits to the emergency room and hospitalizations for asthmatic children during flu season would be reduced by about 78 percent.
Flu Shot for Pregnant Women With Asthma
Pregnant women who have asthma should also receive a flu shot during flu season. There is a nasal-spray form of the flu vaccine, however, that pregnant women should never get because it contains live flu virus.
Flu Shot for Seniors With Asthma
The flu shot is safe and recommended for people over age 65 who do or do not have a history of asthma. Senior citizens should also get a pneumococcal vaccine to prevent pneumonia.
Bottom line on flu shots and asthma: If you or someone you love has asthma, talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot every year.
Flu Shots for People with Asthma, COPD
Health officials say the flu can produce serious health issues for people with breathing-related medical conditions.
Share on PinterestThe flu season is just getting underway. It’s expected to peak early next year. Getty Images
It’s just a jab in the arm.
But every flu season, a number of people don’t get the flu shot.
People with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are especially vulnerable if they catch the flu.
Despite this, a recent survey the United Kingdom indicates that a significant number of people with asthma don’t plan on getting vaccinated this year.
Slightly more than 1,000 adults with asthma were polled in the survey, conducted by the charity Asthma UK.
Nearly a quarter of respondents — 23 percent — said they weren’t planning on getting vaccinated. They gave a variety of reasons, ranging from doubt in the vaccine’s abilities to side effects to a distaste for getting shots.
Needless to say, doctors are concerned.
“People with asthma who are shunning the flu jab could be playing Russian roulette with their life,” Dr. Andy Whittamore, clinical lead at Asthma UK, said in the release.
“Unfortunately, there are lots of myths about the flu jab not working, causing side effects or causing flu, and our research shows this is preventing people from getting it,” he added.
A bout with influenza is a rough experience for just about anyone.
But it’s even worse for people with breathing problems such as asthma or COPD.
“While the flu for most is debilitating, for asthmatics and those with any chronic illness, it can be deadly,” Dr. Purvi Parikh, allergist and immunologist with the Allergy & Asthma Network, told Healthline. “In asthmatics and COPD patients, the flu can trigger a life-threatening asthma attack or COPD exacerbation.”
In short, asthma and COPD can place significant stress on the body — and if the flu is added into the mix, things can get even worse.
Patel says that people with asthma are more ly to have their airways constrict due to inflammation when they’re fighting a case of the flu.
“Eighty thousand people died in the U.S. last year from flu, so it is not a benign virus,” emphasizes Parikh. “If you are asthmatic, you are at higher risk of all complications of the flu.”
These complications, says Parikh, can include hospitalization, secondary pneumonia, admission to the intensive care unit due to respiratory failure — and even death.
Flu season strikes during the cold months.
While the dates can fluctuate, doctors tend to see an uptick in flu cases starting in November, while things peak in January and February.
Severity of the dominant flu strain can also vary, but the United States in particular is coming off a severe season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the 2017 to 2018 flu season was the first to be classified as “high severity” across every age group.
The number of people who get vaccinated varies from year to year. But with the number of vaccinated adults in the United States ranging in the 38 to 44 percent range over the past few flu seasons, it’s hardly enough to promote effective herd immunity.
The flu shot is free in the United Kingdom, where the asthma survey originated.
In the United States, the immunization may come with a cost depending on healthcare coverage. For the uninsured, the cost of an annual vaccine ranges from $5 to $30.
For those who are wary of getting the flu shot, the CDC has a section on their website devoted to debunking misconceptions about the vaccine.
There’s no doubt that the winter months are a fraught time when it comes to getting sick.
For those with asthma or COPD, influenza is just one ailment to be concerned about.
“The CDC recommends pneumococcal vaccine (Pneumovax 23) for all asthmatics and COPD patients over 18,” said Parikh. “Strep pneumoniae is the bacteria most commonly responsible for a bacterial pneumonia, for which these patients are at higher risk.”
The common cold can also be a trigger for asthma attacks, so Parikh recommends that people with asthma wash their hands more frequently and stay away from sick people who might infect them.
Ultimately, it’s a global effort to minimize the risks of flu season. But it starts on a small scale, with individuals making the decision to get immunized.
With asthma affecting 1 in 12 people in the United States, it’s doubly important for this at-risk population to protect themselves.
“Never take your breathing lightly,” said Parikh. “Ten people die from asthma on a daily basis in the U.S. alone.”
Health officials are recommending everyone get a flu shot.
However, they say it’s especially important for people with asthma or COPD.
That’s because people with those ailments are more ly to develop serious health issues if they come down with a case of the flu.
Asthma and Flu
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.
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.
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
- Extreme tiredness or generalized muscle aches
- 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.
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.
There are steps you can take to help prevent infections that can trigger asthma symptoms:
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 fluviruses, and does not cause flu. People with asthma should receive the flu shot vaccine, not FluMist.
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 those age 65 and older and may better protect them from the flu.
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 ly 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.
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 and other conditions that depress the immune system”
- 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
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.
The American Lung Association (ALA) offers an electronic flu vaccine clinic locator. Visit its web site, enter a zip code and a date (or dates), and receive information about clinics scheduled in your area. You can also check with your pharmacist. Most retail pharmacies offer flu shots.
If you or your loved one has asthma, talk to your doctor about getting a flu vaccine.
CDC: “Estimating Seasonal Influenza-Associated Deaths in the United States: CDC Study Confirms Variability of Flu.”National Jewish Medical and Research Center: “Asthma Patients Urged to Get Flu Vaccine” and “Respiratory Viruses Can Trigger Asthma Attacks.”Mayo Clinic: “Asthma: Cold and Flu Action Plan.”
American Academy of Family Physicians: “The Flu.”
© 2018 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. The Flu and Heart Disease
If You Have Asthma, Avoiding The Flu Shot Can Actually Be a Deadly Mistake
It's that time of year again, flu season is just around the corner and with it comes the dreaded fear of catching the virus. The flu can come on very quickly and symptoms include aching muscles, chills and sweats, a persistent headache as well as a dry, cough – along with fatigue and weakness.
The flu vaccine becomes available just before the flu season starts – which is April to September in the Southern Hemisphere, October to April in the Northern Hemisphere, and throughout the year in the tropics.
For children, the nasal vaccine contains weakened live viruses while for adults the injected flu vaccine contains inactivated flu viruses. The vaccine cannot cause flu but it activates the immune system to initiate enough protection in case the influenza infection strikes.
It isn't possible to predict the number of cases or the exact month when the flu season will hit in the UK. But flu generally circulates during winter and peaks in December and January.
Though there have been alarming reports earlier in the year from Australia where more than 301,118 cases of flu were confirmed plus 662 flu related deaths.
This is much higher than the previous five-year average of around 110,000 in a season – and may be a sign of what is to come over the winter months in the UK.
Asthma and the flu
In healthy people flu usually clears up on its own within a week, but it can cause severe illness, complications and even death among vulnerable people – this includes older people, pregnant women and people with an underlying health condition. These people are advised to have a flu vaccine each year.
Most asthmatics are entitled to a free flu jab on the NHS as they are classed as a vulnerable group – but not everyone takes up the offer. This is despite the fact that people with asthma – both adults and children – are more prone to develop pneumonia after the flu.
The consequences of flu infection are much worse in asthmatics. This is in part because the flu virus causes inflammation in the respiratory system – which not only triggers symptoms of asthma -— shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness —- but also makes those symptoms much more of an issue.
The reason why people with asthma show such a severe response to influenza is not fully understood. But the fact that the airways of people with asthma are different compared to the airways of healthy people, plays a big part.
In asthmatics, the airways have larger smooth muscles – which help to control the flow of air – and this can cause spasms and narrowing of the airways. Asthmatics also produce more mucus and have less epithelium.
This a thin tissue lining on the outer layer of the airway surface that acts as the first protective barrier between inhaled pathogens and the internal environment of the lung. This means there is less room for air to travel in the airways of asthmatics as they are narrower.
The combination of the flu and asthma symptoms is also highly problematic as the influenza virus directly target airway epithelial cells. And the flu infection also leads to more mucus secretion which can block the airway of asthmatics.
This can lead to increased risk of complications and exposes the lungs to severe, possibly even long-term, damage.
Our recent research has also shown that healthy people have “mechanisms” in their airway epithelium to protect it from damage by the flu virus. But in asthmatics, these protective measures against infection are weaker so the influenza virus can cause more damage to airway epithelium.
For people with asthma then, it is highly recommended to take necessary precautions.
Make sure you get the flu vaccination and follow good personal hygiene – such as covering coughs and sneezes and washing your hands regularly.
And remember to repeat your flu vaccination every year because the protection from the vaccine decreases over time and the vaccine can change each year to cover the current virus strains.
And if you do end up with the flu as an asthmatic, don't panic, just make sure you see your doctor right away to check your symptoms and receive proper medications.
Fatemeh Moheimani, Lecturer in Biomedical Science, Teesside University.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Do I Need the Flu Shot If I Have Asthma?
Terry Vine / Getty Images
I am commonly asked “Do I really need a flu shot if I have asthma? I never get the flu.” My general response is “You are very lucky. Many people with asthma get the flu and end up with an exacerbation or in the hospital!”
If you are having a fever and feeling achy it's too late. You should talk with your doctor about the flu shot every October, but it is definitely better to get your flu shot late rather than not at all.
The flu may not only make your asthma worse, but it may also cause you to make a visit to the ER, end up in the hospital or worse. But, It does not have to be that way.
Getting a flu shot may prevent all of these complications. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 1 in 3 adult asthmatics and 1 in 5 asthmatics under the age of 50 get their annual flu vaccination.
Anyone with asthma over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot every year according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta.
Despite the recommendation for flu vaccination, many asthmatics still do not get flu shots. Even when I recommend the vaccinations in clinic and spend several minutes discussing why it is important, a number of asthmatics still decline the flu vaccine.
some patient's responses, you would think that I was proposing that they be started on a daily injection insulin or a major surgical procedure open-heart surgery. Even when I point out to patients that many of their medications (e.g.
statins to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure meds to prevent stroke, or aspirin to prevent heart attack) are prescribed to prevent future illness, they still refuse.
Here are a few of the reasons people use to rationalize not getting vaccinated and some explanation debunking their decisions.
While you might not have gotten sick last year, the CDC estimates the flu sends 225,000 people to the hospital and causes death in 35,000. Just because you did not get sick last year doesn't mean you won't get sick this year. The best time to get the flu vaccine is October or November and it takes about 2 weeks for you to develop full immunity.
While there is a small chance people may develop some flu symptoms from the nasal flu vaccine because it is made from a live, weakened flu virus, the flu shot is made from a killed virus, so it cannot cause the flu.
Importantly, the nasal vaccines are not FDA approved for patients with asthma and the nasal flu vaccine is not widely used following reports it was less effective. Taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen around the time of your flu shot can help prevent any reactions from the flu vaccine.
Asthma patients are no more ly to experience side effects from the flu vaccine compared to those without asthma.
Side effects are normally minor and include soreness or redness at the injection site, achiness, or a low-grade fever. People rarely develop a serious allergic reaction to the flu shot.
And even more rarely, about one every 1 million people vaccinated may develop Guillain-Barre syndrome (a neurological disorder) as a complication.
On the other hand, asthmatics who contract the flu are more ly to get pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, and experience severe breathing problems.
Overall, because the risks of serious complications from the vaccine are so low and the risk of hospitalization and infection among high-risk individuals without vaccination are significant, the benefits of vaccination appear to outweigh the risks.
Typically, flu treatments only decrease flu symptoms by about one day and may not prevent more serious complications.
While I do not think I have any more conspiracy theorists than the internist next door, I hear this every year from an older patient in clinic.
I assume they are referring to 1976 when there was a tremendous concern over a potential swine flu epidemic. Nearly 25% of the U.S.
Population was vaccinated over 10 weeks before the program was halted due to 500 cases of Guillain Barre syndrome and 25 deaths. The predicted epidemic never materialized and many thought the episode was a government sham.
While this is technically a true statement, natural immunity to flu only lasts a few months. As a result, you do not have immunity in the next flu year and the virus can be different from year to year.
Some people who exercise and eat right still develop heart disease or diabetes. In the case of the flu, you are just one of the unlucky people who got the flu after getting vaccinated.
Most insurance plans will cover your flu vaccination. If not Google flu shot + “your city.” Chances are that you can find a clinic, pharmacy, or hospital that is either giving them away for free or charging a minimal fee $10. This is also a solution if you don't going to your doctor's office.
Consider getting the flu shot—it's a whole lot easier than getting the flu!
Thanks for your feedback!
What are your concerns?
4 Debunked Myths About Living with Asthma During Cold and Flu Season
Share on PinterestIf you’re living with asthma, you may not be able to always avoid colds and the flu, but being prepared with accurate information is the best way to face them. Getty Images
- Cold and flu season can be particularly challenging for people who have asthma.
- A number of myths and false claims about how best to treat asthma during this time continue to persist.
- Properly managed asthma can help with symptoms brought on by the cold and flu.
Cold and flu season can take a toll on anyone, but for those living with asthma, this time of year can be particularly challenging.
“When people come into the hospital for asthma exacerbation around this time of year, it’s generally in the setting of a viral upper respiratory tract infection or influenza. That tends to be the provoking factor,” Dr. Benjamin Seides, a pulmonologist at Northwestern Medicine Regional Medical Group in Winfield, Illinois, told Healthline.
As common as colds and flus are, he says many misunderstandings about how the conditions relate to asthma still exist.
Here’s the truth about four common myths that continue to confuse people about asthma and the flu.
Seides says this myth is the misconception that the flu vaccine will cause asthma to flare up. However, he says there’s no evidence to support this claim.
“If you have asthma, you absolutely need the flu vaccine more than the average person, because people with asthma and other chronic lung disease, such as emphysema, can have a very severe course with influenza that is rather exaggerated relative to someone who has otherwise healthy lungs,” Seides said.
Cheryl Nickerson, a respiratory specialist and clinical product manager at Philips Sleep and Respiratory Care, agrees. She says the only people who shouldn’t get the flu shot are those who’ve had a severe allergic reaction to the shot in the past that was diagnosed by a doctor.
“Some people think they’ve had a reaction to the flu shot, but it was something else that coincided at the same time. Unless a doctor told them specifically that they shouldn’t get it, everyone with asthma should get the flu shot,” Nickerson said.
A person who’s properly managing their asthma with medication and other measures won’t experience as severe cold or flu symptoms compared to someone with unmanaged asthma.
However, Nickerson says a cold or flu is what makes someone who has well-managed asthma have an exacerbation.
She explains this is due to inflammation.
“Before you know you’re exposed to a cold or flu, the immune system knows and is planning an attack because it doesn’t want that virus to settle in the body.
Most people recognize symptoms of cold and flu as watery eyes, runny nose, and coughing and sneezing, but that’s all associated with the stage of the cold and flu that’s called inflammation.
Inflammation is just the body trying to keep it from getting deeper into your lungs,” she said.
Even with well-managed asthma, when the immune system recognizes a cold or flu, Nickerson says it creates more inflammatory cells.
“That can trigger a person with well-controlled asthma to develop more asthma symptoms,” she said.
Seides adds it’s important to stay on medications even if you’re not feeling any symptoms.
“Sometimes if people have well-controlled asthma, they want to get off their meds, but it’s well controlled because of the medications. If asthma is left untreated, even if it’s quiet, it causes changes in your airways, something called remodeling, which is ly to make you more prone to more severe asthma later, and severe asthma is more resistant to treatment,” he said.
Seides says asthma that’s provoked by certain allergens is a small subset of asthma.
“Asthma is a complex disease with a common thread that has to do with airway hyperactivity and a certain characteristic and appearance on pulmonary function tests, but the kind of asthma that is specifically related to certain allergens is a small subset of that,” he said.
The reason for this misconception comes from a logical place, Nickerson says.
“As an asthma educator, one of the biggest things I talk about with people who have asthma is how to manage triggers, and of course allergens is a big trigger.
We talk about eradicating the allergens from the house by removing carpet and stuffed animals and other things that could carry the allergens, but in reality it’s not the allergens that are the number one trigger.
The number one trigger is cold and flu viruses,” she said.
She points out that in children, cold and flu viruses trigger 80 percent of asthma exacerbations.
“Even if they manage those allergens, they could still come down with asthma exacerbation from cold and flu,” she said.
All children — with or without asthma — get about the same number of colds per year, Nickerson says.
“Most children have six to eight colds per year, but for children with asthma, when they get a cold it seems to hit them harder and the symptoms are worse. Also, [the cold or virus] may keep the airways reactive, so even if the virus goes away, the child may still be having symptoms, such as coughing,” she said.
Seides reiterates that the flu shot is the best defense during this time of year.
“The reason we doctors are so concerned about influenza virus — though it varies from year to year — is because it can cause very severe disease and kills many people every year. We also talk so much about it because we have a vaccine that can either prevent or significantly reduce the severity of imprecation in people,” he said.
While there are other respiratory viruses that can be problematic for people with asthma, he says doctors can only help people manage them symptomatically and supportively.
To best guard yourself against other colds and viruses, Nickerson says to keep the following in mind:
- Wash your hands often.
- Try not to share food and drinks, as well as objects that can harbor germs, such as cellphones.
- If you have asthma, ensure that your nebulizers are clean, properly working, and have been replaced within the last 6 months.
“And make sure you have an up-to-date asthma action plan. This is a plan that you’ve worked out with your doctor to monitor symptoms and to know how to take your medications correctly if you experience an increase in symptoms,” Nickerson said.
“You can’t avoid all colds and the flu, but being prepared is the best way to face them,” she added.
Cathy Cassata is a freelance writer who specializes in stories about health, mental health, and human behavior. She has a knack for writing with emotion and connecting with readers in an insightful and engaging way. Read more of her work here.