Asthma - Influenza Season

Asthma - Influenza Season
Asthma 'season' coincides with influenza season
National Asthma Council encourages people at risk to get vaccinated

Prevention is better than cure, and when it comes to health, there is probably no truer adage. It is especially true given the changing seasons, as the onset of winter is usually synonymous with the 'flu season.

In anticipation of this, the National Asthma Council is encouraging people with asthma to prepare against the risk of 'flu. Getting the 'flu is likely to trigger their asthma symptoms.

There is also evidence that 'flu season coincides with a seasonal rise in the number of asthma related visits to general practitioners - late Autumn to late Spring.

Dr Simon Bowler, respiratory physician and spokesperson for the National Asthma Council said, "People with asthma should prepare for the winter 'flu season by visiting their doctor, having their written Asthma Action Plan updated and taking their prescribed medications. It's a good time to talk to their doctor about having a 'flu vaccination."

Dr Bowler advises people with severe asthma to consider getting vaccinated against influenza as a preventive measure.

"Both adults and children with severe asthma should be vaccinated. Even if they are successfully managing their asthma, this does not reduce the risk - vaccination is the only way to protect against influenza."

For those who are in the 'high-risk' group - including people with severe asthma, influenza can have serious consequences. It can lead to exacerbated asthma symptoms and even pneumonia.

Melinda Arko is someone who can testify about the serious consequences influenza can have for people with asthma. A lecturer at the Queensland University of Technology, Melinda has had asthma since she was a child of 7.

She said "I have been getting the 'flu vaccination for the last 9 years but last year missed one which had serious ramifications. In August I contracted Influenza A. At first I thought I had a bad cold. The initial symptoms were aches and pains all over my body, and a runny nose. Then, a persistent cough started which resulted in shortness of breath. Then a bad fever struck and I started to cough up a lot of fluid."

"The worst part was I felt like I was fighting a double battle, one to get rid of the 'flu and another battle with my lungs trying to get enough air in to breathe. Antibiotics didn't seem to work and my symptoms got worse by the day until I was rushed to hospital for my asthma to be stabilised."

"After my experience I would encourage all asthmatics to be vaccinated against the 'flu, to protect themselves not only from the symptoms of the 'flu itself, but also against a nasty asthma attack."

Just as younger people can develop serious complications from asthma, older people with asthma can face special risks. If someone is over 60 years of age and already has asthma or other chronic respiratory conditions, the risk of being hospitalised with pneumonia is up to seven times higher than normal.

The National Asthma Council advises vaccination for all who want it and it is particularly recommended for:
  • Children 6 months and older with severe asthma
  • Teenagers with severe asthma
  • Adults with severe asthma especially those over 60 years old
  • Pregnant women with severe asthma or even women with asthma who anticipate being pregnant through winter.

    People with asthma should seek advice from their doctor or pharmacist. The National Asthma Council also has an influenza fact sheet available on their website: www.nationalasthma.org.au/



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