COPD, asthma, and the seasonal flu: are you prepared?

Facts | 06/12/2021
COPD, asthma, and the seasonal flu: are you prepared?

A nasty seasonal influenza can trigger inflammation in your lungs. Find out more about how the flu impacts your Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or asthma, and how can you avoid getting it this winter.

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 four types of influenza viruses: A, B, C and D.1 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. Influenza type D mainly affects animals and is not known to cause human illness.

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 to avoid getting the flu is to wash your hands often and avoid people with flu. Still, doctors all across Europe recommend also that people with COPD or asthma should get a flu vaccination every year.2


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 flu3.

Asthma causes constant inflammation of the airways that lead to the lungs.4 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.3 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 asthma action plan and/or COPD plan and health 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 vaccination before the flu season strikes.

The flu vaccination can be up to 60 per cent effective at protecting people from the flu.5 While there is a very rare chance for a more severe adverse reaction to the flu vaccination, there is no added risk if you have COPD or asthma. The HSE National Immunisation Programme recommends that all people who have COPD or Asthma should have the flu vaccination.

Typically, mid-October is the best time to schedule your flu vaccination as it takes approximately two weeks for the vaccination to take effect in your immune system.6

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 vaccination.7

By Emelia Salakka
Photo by iStock

Read more: 

Seasonal influenza fact sheets

Seasonal flu vaccination schedule



  1. (Date accessed 06.12.21)
  2. (Date accessed 06.12.21)
  3. Kurai, D., Saraya, T., Ishii, H., & Takizawa, H. (2013). Virus-induced exacerbations in asthma and COPD. Frontiers in Microbiology, 4, 293. (Date accessed 06.12.21)
  4. (Date accessed 06.12.21)
  5. (Date accessed 06.12.21)
  6. (Date accessed 06.12.21)
  7. (Date accessed 06.12.21)


Date of preparation: November 2023 / EASYH-665(2)


If you get any side effects, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse. This includes any possible side effects not listed in the package leaflet. You can also report side effects directly via the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) website: or email


You might be interested in these:


Orion Corporation is a globally operating Finnish pharmaceutical company. We develop, manufacture and market human and veterinary pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients. The dry powder inhaler developed at Orion is in the core of our respiratory therapy area.