Even though spread of the flu seems to be slowing down, it’s still circulating at above-average levels. If you have asthma, hopefully you’ve already gotten your flu shot, as the CDC recommended. Both children (older than 6 months) and adults with asthma should get vaccinated against influenza every year. However, this year the inactive strain used to make the vaccine differs from the one most people are contracting (H3N2). So what does that mean for you?
How Influenza Affects People with Asthma
While many people associate the flu with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, it primarily attacks the respiratory system (lungs, bronchial tubes, nasal passages, and throat). It also spreads through the air. Since asthmatics have sensitive airways that are prone to irritation and swelling, they face greater risks of complications from the flu, but are just as likely to contract the virus as anyone else. If a person with asthma comes down with the flu, his or her asthma symptoms will almost certainly worsen, and he or she may experience severe acute attacks. Asthmatics are also more likely to develop pneumonia or another respiratory infection after having the flu, since it weakens the body’s defenses, damages lung tissue, and causes fluid to build up in the lungs. That means it’s harder to breathe, and the lungs cannot transfer oxygen to the blood as effectively – a serious condition that could land you in the hospital.
How to Avoid the Flu
Getting a flu shot is only the first step in avoiding the flu. You should also take care to wash your hands frequently, and avoid contact with people infected with the flu virus. Working to improve your overall health by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants, and getting plenty of rest will keep your immune system in the best possible shape to fight off influenza.
What to Do if You Get the Flu
Symptoms of the flu include:
•Nausea, Vomiting, or Diarrhea
If you experience a sudden onset of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away. Prescription antiviral medication can reduce the duration of the flu, and are especially effective at reducing complications from influenza; they work best if taken within the first 48 hours, so you need to act fast. You should stay home from school or work if you are diagnosed with the flu, both to speed your recovery and to prevent spreading the disease.