COPD, asthma, and the seasonal flu: are you prepared?Facts | 11/2/2018
It’s the same thing every year. Summer ends and autumn begins. Students go back to school, nurseries fill up, and workplaces are as busy as ever. Soon enough that pesky seasonal flu is knocking at your door again.
The flu is a drag no matter who you are, but for those of us with COPD or asthma, there are more reasons to want to avoid the flu than just lying in bed for weeks. It can be a true danger for you.
Reducing your risk
There are three types of influenza viruses: A, B, and C. A and B strains are the ones that scientists look out for every year in order to prepare an up-to-date flu vaccine. Type A viruses originate from animals and typically have most severe symptoms. Its varying subtypes are spreading yearly from east, south, and southeast Asia.
It’s enough to be within two metres of somebody with the flu. If they cough without covering their mouth, you’re at risk of being infected. No wonder it’s so easy to catch during the epidemics.
Still, just because everybody else seems to catch the flu doesn’t mean it’s inevitable that you will catch it, too.
The basic step avoiding getting the flu is to wash your hands often and avoid people with flu. Still, doctors all across the EU recommend also that people with COPD or asthma should get a flu shot every year.
How the flu affects COPD and asthma
Since COPD, asthma, and the flu are all conditions that affect the lungs, some of their respective symptoms are going to overlap. Because of these overlapping symptoms, like reduced lung capacity and coughing, there’s extra cause for concern when somebody with COPD or asthma catches the flu.
Asthma causes constant inflammation of the airways that lead to the lungs. This causes coughing. Coughing from the flu is a result of post-nasal drip, or mucous that drips into your lungs from your sinuses. This coughing double-whammy causes up to 50 per cent more difficulty with breathing. COPD also has its own overlapping symptoms, but because COPD is progressive, those with the flu may permanently lose some lung function.
In either case, those with asthma and COPD should be extra careful with their health during the annual flu season.
Stay healthy this year
Regardless of the time of year, it's essential to follow your personal treatment plan of asthma and/or COPD and healthy lifestyle habits to keep your lungs in good condition. Yet, for your health and your happiness this flu season, it’s also important to consider getting a flu shot before the flu season strikes.
The flu shot can be up to 60 per cent effective at protecting people from the flu. It’s safe, and free for most people with asthma or COPD. While there is a very rare chance for a more severe adverse reaction to the flu shot, there is no added risk if you have COPD or asthma.
Typically, mid-October is the best time to schedule your flu shot as it takes approximately two weeks for the vaccination to take effect in your immune system.
There’s also a vaccination schedule available by the European Centre for Disease Control that you can check out for more country-specific information about when to get the flu shot.
Seasonal influenza fact sheets
Seasonal flu vaccination schedule
By Emelia Salakka
Photo by iStock
Kurai, D., Saraya, T., Ishii, H., & Takizawa, H. (2013). Virus-induced exacerbations in asthma and COPD. Frontiers in Microbiology, 4, 293.
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