Source from Everyday Health
For people with asthma, getting a cold or flu can increase the risk of having an asthma attack. Try these simple asthma self-care steps to protect yourself when you get a cold.
Over the course of the year, Americans will have over one billion colds. For many people, getting sick is just a nuisance, but if you have asthma, you may have a harder time getting through a cold or the flu. A University of Michigan study finds that the reason for this may have more to do with your immune system — your body’s defense system against foreign invaders — than the actual effects of cold and flu viruses.
“People with asthma have a more ‘exuberant’ immune response to cold and flu viruses. That not only makes their cold and flu symptoms worse, it also may trigger an asthma attack,” says David A. Neumeyer, MD, a pulmonary specialist at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass.
Here’s how to better protect yourself from getting a cold or the flu, and how to keep your asthma in check if you do get sick.
Start With Cold and Flu Prevention
It’s important for people with asthma to try to prevent catching a cold or the flu in the first place. “If you have asthma, it does not mean you are more likely to get colds and flu, but you want to try hard to prevent them because they can trigger an asthma attack,” says Dr. Neumeyer. “Number one on your list is to get your flu shot every year. The best time to get your flu vaccine is in early fall — say September or October — before flu season starts.”
Though that may sound obvious, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only one-third of adults with asthma get their flu vaccine every year. Keep in mind that while there is also a flu vaccine in nasal-spray form, it’s not recommended for people with asthma because there is some evidence that it can trigger an asthma attack, so it’s best to opt for the traditional shot.
To avoid getting sick, follow simple precautions such as avoiding crowded places, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding people you know who have a cold. “If possible, also try to avoid traveling in airplanes during the cold and flu season,” advises Neumeyer.
Managing Asthma and Colds or the Flu
Unfortunately, the flu vaccine may not cover all flu viruses, and you may still get a cold despite your best efforts. Go on the defensive once a virus is in your system. “The best thing you can do is to have an asthma action plan in place that already anticipates the problem. This is something you should discuss with your doctor before cold and flu season starts,” says Neumeyer.
Here are five ways you can keep your asthma in check when you have a cold or the flu:
- Use your peak flow meter more often. Your peak flow meter measures how well your asthma is controlled. Make sure you know how to use it.
- Keep track of symptoms like wheezing, cough, and chest tightness. You may need to bump up your controller medications or start using your rescue medications.
- Give it a day to see how you feel. Call your doctor in 24 hours if symptoms are getting worse, interfering with daily activities, or waking you up at night.
- Look out for asthma red flags. Call your doctor right away if your medications are not helping or your peak flow drops below 50 percent of your personal best.
- Take good care of yourself. Stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids, and keep your nasal secretions moist with an over-the-counter saline nasal spray. Ask your doctor about other over-the-counter medications that may help such as decongestants, analgesics, and expectorants.
If you have asthma, you are not more likely to get a cold or the flu. But asthma and colds or the flu can be a dangerous combination for you, so you need to be ready. Talk to your doctor about flu and cold prevention, get your flu vaccine, and make sure your asthma action plan is in place.