If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ve no doubt heard that the flu is sweeping the country this year. In fact, for the first time in 13 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that the entire contiguous United States, excluding Washington DC, is showing widespread flu at one time!
Getting a flu shot is a great way to protect yourself from a nasty illness, and for some at-risk people, that shot could be life-saving. Particularly for those with asthma, the flu can go from uncomfortable to life-threatening very quickly.
What is Asthma?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asthma is defined as a lung disease caused by chronic inflammation of the airways. While not contagious, asthma is still the most common long-term disease in children, with symptoms frequently carrying on into adulthood. Asthma often manifests in the form of an asthma attack, an episode where the lung airways tighten and become swollen because of inflammation. Attack triggers vary from patient to patient and may be things such as chemical irritants, air pollution, airway infections or even exercise. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, breathlessness, coughing and tightness across the chest.
Fortunately, asthma can often be managed with rescue inhalers, which treat symptoms, and controller inhalers, which prevent symptoms. In severe cases, long-acting inhalers may be necessary to help keep airways open. If you suspect you may have asthma, it’s important to talk with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for your body.
Asthmatics and the Flu
The flu is not a pleasant experience for anyone, but for a person with asthma the flu can be downright life-threatening. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), people with asthma should see a doctor immediately if they suspect they have the flu. The flu can cause swelling and narrowing of the airways which could trigger a severe asthma attack. Signs you may have the flu include a very high fever (typically 101 degrees or above), excessive tiredness, body aches, chills, sore throat and nausea or vomiting.
Having asthma does not mean you are more vulnerable to getting infected by the flu virus, reported the New York Times; however, should an asthmatic become infected, they are at higher risk of coming down with pneumonia or suffering from other serious complications. In fact, asthma is the most common medical condition in patients hospitalized with the flu.
How to Fight Off the Flu
During the flu season, it’s advisable to regularly wipe down frequently-touched areas, such as doorknobs, your cell phone and television remote. You should also regularly wash your hands with warm, soapy water to cut down on germs, particularly before eating. Keeping your hands clean and avoiding touching your face is a good way to help keep your body healthy and flu-free.
In addition to daily hygienic practices, the best way to avoid becoming infected with the flu is to get your flu shot every year! Unfortunately, a recent research study from the University of London showed that two-thirds of people with asthma do not get vaccinated because of a concern that the flu shot itself can worsen their condition; however, that is not true. The same research study concluded that the flu shot does not worsen asthma and in fact, it’s advisable for asthmatics to receive the shot. The only limitation for most people with asthma is how they receive the vaccine. It is highly recommended that asthmatics receive the flu shot via injection rather than the nasal spray vaccine as that could potentially trigger asthma symptoms or even an attack. Overall, the flu shot is far more likely to save your life than cause any worsening in your asthma.
Getting your flu shot doesn’t have to be a time-consuming endeavor. At American Family Care, patients are seen promptly and can stop by at their convenience – no scheduling needed!