According to the US Center for Disease Control, the flu in California, particularly in the Fresno and Bay Area, is still considered sporadic, fairly low and “flu season” hasn’t really started yet. The CDC has an interesting map which tracks the spread of the flu in the US on a weekly basis.
Seasonal influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is caused by influenza viruses, which infect the respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs). Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people. It is estimated that in the United States, each year on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe.
Flu is bad but for people with asthma, the flu can be even more serious. Asthma sufferers have swollen and sensitive airways, the flu can cause further inflammation of the airways and lungs which can trigger asthma attacks as well as worsening of asthma symptoms. It can also lead to pneumonia, in fact, adults and children with asthma are more likely to develop pneumonia after being ill with the flu than those without asthma.
Flu is bad, flu can be worse for people with asthma
If you have asthma, here are steps to prevent the flu
1. Get a flu shot. Even if you don’t have a regular doctor, flu shots are widely available. Many clinics, college health centers, pharmacies and even some companies may offer flu shots to their employees. Here’s an online flu vaccine locator tool that can also help.
2. Avoid sick people! consequently, stay at home if you are sick. Flu germs are airborne meaning you can potentially catch the flu when an infected person coughs or sneezes and the microscopic droplets are sprayed into the air and onto people nearby. Droplets can also land on surfaces such as desks or counters and can be spread by touch. This is why cleaning surfaces that may come into contact with sick people is very important.
3. Wash your hands often especially if you’re coughing or sneezing, also avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth (germs are spread that way)
4. Follow your asthma management plan with your doctor. An allergist is a specialist in asthma management (see previous post here) who can help adjust your asthma plan if necessary to help manage the flu
If you do catch the flu, rest, drink plenty of fluids and stay home (except to visit your doctor). Over-the-counter medications can help with the flu symptoms but if you have asthma you should consult your doctor on which products are safe or may be most effective.
Your physician may prescribe an antiviral drug to treat the flu. These are different from antibiotics and are not available over-the-counter. Antivirals may make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. Studies show that these drugs are most effective if taken within two days of getting sick. As with any type of medication, consult with your doctor for your best treatment options.
The staff at Baz Allergy, Asthma and Sinus Center are asthma specialists and can help you with your asthma management plan during flu season. A list of our office locations can be found here
References used for this post:
CDC Geographic graph of influenza chart
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
Asthma & the flu
Centers for Disease Control
Flu and people with asthma
Centers for Disease Control
Take 3 actions to fight the flu