It is pretty busy where I work. Many hospitals in Michigan are filling up. Some are filled to capacity. One of the culprits is the influenza virus. According to the Detroit Free Press, it’s the worst flu in 13 years. So, here’s what you can do to protect yourself.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), asthmatics do not have an increased risk of developing influenza. But, they do have an increased risk for complications if they get influenza. Like any virus, influenza can make your asthma worse. They can also increase your risk of getting pneumonia. In other words, influenza can hit asthmatics hard.
What can you do?
So, it’s especially important for asthmatics to be prepared. Here’s what you can do to prepare yourself for this flu season.
- Get Vaccinated. You’ve heard it a hundred times before. Maybe you’ve gotten yours already. If not, it’s probably a good idea to get vaccinated. Sure, there are no guarantees. But, the flu shot is considered safe by most experts. And it’s the best way to prevent yourself from getting it. Plus, it’s easy to get. You can talk to your doctor. You can also drop by certain stores, such as Walgreens.
- Take your medicine exactly as prescribed. I know I’m preaching to the choir here. I’m sure you do this already. But, those with controlled asthma can still suffer from flare-ups. But, the more controlled your asthma is, the easier flare-ups are to control. So, this is just a reminder to take extra care not to forget to take your asthma medicine. I will be honest and say that sometimes I forget to take my medicine. Now, during flu season, is not a good time for this. So, just a friendly reminder to you and me here.
- Avoid sick people. This isn’t always so easy to do. I’m a respiratory therapist, so it’s my job to take care of sick people. If you’re a teacher, chances are you’ll be exposed to germy kids. But, if possible, it’s best to avoid sick people as best you can.
- Take extra precautions. Wash your hands. Wash your hands often. Encourage those around you to cover their mouths when they sneeze. Have them cough into a tissue. Or, better yet, cough or sneeze into their shoulder. Encourage them to wash hands often. Encourage them to wash their hands after coughing or sneezing. Also, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. I know this is easier said than done. But, as noted above, I’m just saying. Taking such precautions can go a long way to preventing the spread of a virus.
- Have a plan. Many of us asthmatics have written asthma action plans. If we feel symptoms, we know what to do: we have that plan. It should be in an easy to find location, like your refrigerator door. Make sure you review it with your doctor, if necessary. If you feel symptoms, if you think you have the flu, refer to your plan. Or, if in doubt, call your doctor. The sooner you take action the better.
- Seek help if necessary. If you even think you need to seek help, just do it. If you even think you have the flu, seek help right now! It’s best to seek help now than to wait too long. The sooner you are diagnosed, the easier it will be for doctors to fix you. So, don’t second guess yourself. Don’t wait thinking you’ll just get better. I say this based on my own personal experience. If you think you need help, seek it now.
- Know that there is something your doctor can do. Your doctor may step up your asthma treatment regimen. He or she may have you take systemic steroids, for example. This can help reduce airway inflammation and keep your airways open. He or she may use antiviral medicines to make the flu less severe. So, just keep in mind there is something that can be done if you get the flu.
So, there are steps you can take to prevent the flu. But, despite taking these steps, there’s no guarantee you won’t get it. When it gets into your lungs, you’ll want to take swift action. This is important when you don’t have asthma. It’s especially important when you do.