Bee Healthy: Asthma poses risk for serious flu-related complications

September 23, 2013 

Have you ever been diagnosed with asthma or do you experience asthma symptoms?

If so, you may be at risk for serious respiratory complications during the flu season. Fortunately, preventive measures can be taken to minimize the risk of contracting influenza and experiencing flu related asthma flare-ups.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes swelling, constriction and increased mucus production in the airways. It can make breathing very difficult.

Triggers, such as influenza or other viral illnesses, increase inflammation and cause the airways to narrow even more. Breathing becomes even harder and medications designed to relax and open the airways are not as effective.

Oftentimes, this leads to acute respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia. Asthma is the most common health condition among children and adults hospitalized with the flu, according to www.flu.gov.

Flu season typically begins in January or February, but it can start as early as October and last through May. Taking measures to avoid the virus is particularly crucial for those who have asthma or other respiratory illnesses. Getting an annual flu vaccine is the best defense.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends the vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older for whom there are no contraindications. According to the CDC, each year the vaccine is designed to protect against the three main virus strains expected to cause the most illness during the flu season.

The vaccine will be effective against those viruses during the entire flu season. It is typically offered at doctor’s offices and pharmacies. Some schools and places of employment may offer the vaccine, as well.

If you have asthma, be sure to get the flu shot, not the nasal spray. The nasal spray is unsafe for people with asthma.

Jackson is a registered respiratory therapist at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.

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