What You Need to Know About the Flu and Asthma
Fall is just around the corner and the kids are back in school once again. In my area, the aspen leaves are even starting to turn yellow already!
With this time of year, we begin to focus once again on the upcoming flu season. Flu season most years tends to peak between December and February. However, it's not unusual for flu activity to be seen as early as October and November. Most flu activity declines by early spring, but it can last as long as May. Of course, this can vary, depending on where in the world you live.
It can be difficult to predict, the types of flu viruses that will circulate and their severity each year. But communicable disease experts do their best, based on past trends.
What You Need to Know About the Flu If You Have Asthma
Asthma is a respiratory illness. Influenza, commonly called the flu, is as well. So, when your airways are already compromised from asthma, it's not a good idea for you to get the flu on top it. Some have called this a "double whammy." The respiratory inflammation from a flu infection will cause asthma flare-ups and an overall worsening of your health. It might even cause you to have a hospital stay and serious complications. In some cases, death might even result from getting the flu with asthma.
In fact, a study out of Canada revealed that there is a 40% chance that asthma treatment will not relieve symptoms in the presence of the flu.
But there is a simple solution: people with asthma are strongly encouraged to get a flu shot every year. Try to get your shot in before the end of October, if you can. If you must get your flu vaccine after that, you'll still benefit. Although it may not fully protect you from getting the flu, it will help you get less sick and to recover more quickly.
What's New With the Flu This Year?
The Center for Disease Control says that the changes this year, in regards to the flu, include:
- Flu vaccines have been updated to better match the expected circulating viruses
- Nasal spray vaccines are again available for certain populations (not for those over age 49 or for people with asthma)
- Most vaccines this year are quadrivalent, which means they have 4 components
The vaccines that will be available this year are:
- Standard dose flu shots given into the muscle
- High dose flu shots for older adults
- Shots that contain a substance called an adjuvant that improve the immune response, also for older adults
- Vaccines cultured both in eggs and in mammalian cells (new technology)
- Nasal spray vaccines
You can speak with your doctor or your child's doctor about the type of flu shot that might be best, based on your (or your child's) age and health status.
The viruses that will be in most flu vaccines this year include:
- A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus
- A(H3N2)-like virus (updated)
- B/Colorado/06/2017-like (Victoria lineage) virus (updated)B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (Yamagata lineage) virus
Hopefully, those viruses will be the actual ones circulating this year!
A Few More Things to Keep in Mind About the Flu
Check with your doctor to see when flu vaccine is available and get your flu shot as soon as possible. You can also get flu shots at many pharmacies, clinics and even some schools. The important thing is to get immunized before flu activity begins in your area. It can take about 2 weeks after a flu shot to be fully protected.
Once flu season does begin, do your best to avoid coming into contact with sick people, especially those with the flu. When out in public, wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap to prevent the spread of infection. Never share drinks or eating utensils with other people. Children who have the flu should not attend school and adults should not report to work.
If you get the flu, then it's important to call your doctor right away. There are antiviral drugs that can greatly improve your outcome with the flu, but they must be started early.
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