If you or someone you live with has asthma, you’re probably familiar with the wheezing, loss of breath and coughing that can come with it. But did you know that getting the flu can make asthma worse? It can even land a person with asthma in the hospital. This is true even if the asthma is mild or controlled by medicine.
Why is this? People with asthma have swollen and sensitive airways. Getting the flu can cause the airways and lungs to become even more swollen, which can trigger asthma attacks and a worsening of asthma symptoms. It can also lead to pneumonia. Asthma is one of the most common medical conditions among adults and kids who have to be hospitalized with the flu.
Vaccination is the best way to protect against flu. The flu shot (rather than the nasal spray vaccine) should be given to people with asthma who are 6 months and older. Tell your doctor if you have any severe (life-threatening) allergies, including a severe allergy to eggs. Although allergic reactions to the influenza vaccine are rare, a severe allergy to any vaccine component may be a reason not to get the vaccine. Also, because of the risk of developing pneumonia from the flu, a pneumonia (pneumococcal) shot is also recommended.
If you do not have asthma, but someone you live with does, you should still get a flu shot – keep your loved one and yourself healthy.
The flu vaccine is widely available. Even if you don’t have a regular doctor or nurse, you can get vaccinated. Flu vaccines are offered in many locations including doctor’s offices, local health departments and pharmacies. The best time to get vaccinated is before flu season starts (in other words, now) and before people around you start becoming sick or ill. The flu vaccine is safe, effective and can’t give you the flu.
If you have questions about the flu or flu vaccine, please contact the Department of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at (617) 983-6800. To find out where you can get flu vaccine, talk with your doctor or visit http://flu.masspro.org to find a flu clinic near you.